NRN - NYT Report on Polls Conceals Public's Intense Opposition to Democrats


Poll numbers show that Barack Obama has reached his lowest ebb of public approval, while the Democrats in the House and Senate are in danger of being turned out in the 2010 midterm elections. But The New York Times is making every effort to pump up and inflate Obama's political standing beyond what the poll numbers suggest. The public may not be in love with Republicans, but the politcal challenges to Democrats are very evident to any who takes a hard look at the numbers this report attempts to conceal…

Every president comes back down to earth from the stratospheric highs that greet every incoming administration. Even so, Obama's fall from grace has been particularly precipitous, according to recent polls. Most Americans now say that he does not deserve re-election and disapprove of his performance.

By comparison, George W. Bush had very robust standings at this point in his presidency and actually helped his party make gains in the 2002 midterm elections. Looking ahead to 2010 several prominent Democrats are bowing out of what looks like a tough election cycle including Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.). The Republicans also have a chance at taking the House.

Fortunately, for Obama he has The New York Times to help shift the focus away from his own deficiencies and in the direction of the opposing the political party. "Poll Finds Edge Over GOP With Public" the headline for a front page story declares. Apparently, the public blames the Republicans more for lack of bipartisan cooperation than they do Obama, according to the poll.

But this has to balanced against the public's intense opposition toward Obama's top legislative priorities on healthcare, energy and forced unionization. The Republicans won unlikely victories in New Jersey and Massachusetts in no small part because of their opposition toward costly initiatives.

Moreover, even if the public is not in love with the Republicans the numbers for Obama's party in Congress are radioactive. The New York Times/CBS Poll shows three-fourths of the respondents disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job and over 80 percent say most members should not be re-elected.

Even as the NYT makes note of the bad news for Obama and the Democrats, it abruptly transitions into reporting on a potential backslide for the Republicans. Consider the following:

"The percentage of Americans who approve of Mr. Obama's job performance, 46 percent, is as low as it has been since he took office. Still, the poll suggests that Mr. Obama and his party have an opportunity to deflect the anger and anxiety if they can frame the election not as a referendum on the president and his party, but as a choice between them and a Republican approach that yielded results under Mr. Bush that much of the nation still blames for the country's woes. That is what the White House has been trying to do since the beginning of the year."

"For all the erosion in support for Mr. Obama, Americans say he better understands their needs and problems and has made more of an effort to be bipartisan than Congressional Republicans, the poll found."

You can't say they don't try. But the attacks on Bush are losing traction and there is no mention of the many Democratic retirements. One wonders how the NYT would cover reports of widespread Republican retirements.

The article consistently compares Obama's support levels to those of Congressional Republicans. But that's the wrong comparison. In November, Congressional Republicans and Congressional Democrats will be on the ballot, not Obama. The most salient point, which is treated only very briefly, is that Democrats will bear the brunt of public hostility to Congress, because they control Congress.

On policy questions, the NYT times highlight two issues on which the public sides with Democrats, gays in the military, and tax cuts for the wealthy. Neither item is particularly high on the public's priority list. What's striking is that no questions were even asked (or reported on), on issues that are at the top of the public's priorities and that cut against Democrats, such as: national health care; bailouts; trillion dollar deficits; cap-and-trade energy taxes; card check; "stimulus" spending.

Finally, there is no context for the findings. It's true that the public still dislikes George Bush and Wall Street. But those issues were used against GOP candidates in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts in the last four months, to no avail. There is no context for the electoral salience of the voter dislike of Bush/Wall Street.

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