I’ve seen this story in several places and felt the need to add my two-cents — maybe three. The Christian Science Monitor is the original source for the story that is titled “Gallup’s chief puzzled by Obama’s poll numbers”.
I’ll get to why I think the President has consistent poll numbers in the face of a slowly growing economy and many other issues that plague our country in the wake of 8 years of mismanagement. But first, I want to point out some disturbing trends in the media and amongst polling firms.
The mere fact that Frank Newton of Gallup would be puzzled by any poll number raises the question, why? Does he really think that the political world, or the world in general, operates in a pattern where it really doesn’t matter who the individual players are or what they say or do, it should just follow a predetermined pattern. I guess it’s the problem with statisticians in general. They use numbers to help order their worlds and depersonalize things so it is easier for them to understand. When you actually deal with real people and personalities, it isn’t quite as easy for them to understand.
Here is a passage from the CSM piece that illustrates this…
Looking at history, particularly Clinton and Reagan, it is somewhat surprising that [Obama] has never yet fallen into the 30 percent range in our approval rating,” Newport said. “And yet both Reagan and Clinton, in their first terms when the economy was perceived as bad … both fell into the 30s.”
I guess I need to point out to Frank that President Obama is not Clinton or Reagan and it is currently 2011, not the 80’s or 90’s.
The tendency to force everything that happens today into a model from the past is a common phenomenon. I’m my younger days of self discovery, I read a “philosopher” named J. Krishnamurti who wrote extensively on this idea. One of the things he said was that all thought is based on the past, it is formed from our memories and the mind filters everything through what it has known before and therefore it isn’t new. He encouraged people to live in the moment, and learn to listen with a still mind. I highly recommend his readings and lectures, if you Google J. Krishnamurti, you will find a lot of information about him and there are many Youtube clips of him speaking.
Back to the numbers game in politics! One of the worst offenders is Chuck Todd of NBC/MSNBC. The man lives for his numbers and especially the “horse-race” numbers. It may be that he perceives them as being impartial. We often here the phrase, numbers don’t lie. When I hear that phrase, my instinct is to say, “yeah, they are fucking numbers, how the fuck can they lie”. What that phrase accomplishes when uttered is to present the numbers as being impartial, as if the interpretation or spin of them doesn’t matter, because they don’t lie. It’s very similar to the phrase “the fact of the matter is” which is then followed by person’s interpretation of the “fact”.
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Here is some more statistical wisdom from Frank Newport at Gallup…
Newport noted, “Satisfaction with the way things are going is … correlated with economic perceptions fairly strongly.” At the same time, Obama “is overperforming. Based on where every president has been, his approval rating now is higher than we would predict it to be based on” how satisfied American adults say they are.
What these numbers say to me is that the efforts by the Republicans, the media and even many on the left to damage the President haven’t worked. It has to be driving people like Rush Limbaugh, Roger Ailes, Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald nuts. I’m sure they are banging their heads against the wall and wondering why people aren’t buying their bullshit. What is wrong with these people.
In Newport’s attempt to explain the numbers, he raises another interesting idea…(in bold)
Pollsters are not sure why Obama has fared better than expected in the polls. Newport offered two possibilities. “One theory has to do with personal characteristics of the man,” the Gallup executive said. “The other has to do with the nature of politics today.” Under that theory, Obama has “kind of a rock-hard coalition that are never going to abandon him in approval ratings, and therefore that is why his approval ratings will be propped up no matter what happens.“
Hey Joan Walsh and Jane Hamsher, that is THE BASE!
I do take offense with Frank’s “propped up” comment, which is a subtle dismissal of those numbers, because if they are just propped up, you know….props can fall down.
Getting beyond the numbers game, Smartypants did an excellent job of explaining why it may be that President Obama has strong numbers considering all the shit that the media has been feeding us. Go Smartypants…
Perhaps some of us in the pragmatic progressive blogosphere could help you with that Frank. Could it be that a lot of people recognize that we have an over-performing President and an under-performing Congress? Could it be that some folks see who is “the only adult in the room?” Could it be because the opposition party that finally gained control of the House hasn’t passed one jobs bill since getting elected – while the President goes all over the country doing everything he can alone on that front? Could it be that the “party of no” strategy combined with a willingness to take the entire global economy hostage in order to protect tax cuts for the wealthy does not fare very well up against a President who is willing to compromise with a balanced approach? Could it be that Americans are aware that this President walked into the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression and has worked tirelessly to do everything he can to reverse that – while the opposition has only one goal: make him a one-termer.
In other words, could it be that the American public still has an ounce of sense left?
President Obama’s popularity and steadfast support isn’t puzzling to any of us who actually pay attention and aren’t mired in some irrational hatred or mistrust of our first black president. And I say that because whether people want to believe it or not, a lot of that mistrust and hatred stems directly from racism.
Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles