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February 12, 2010

Dear Lord, Coccoon Us From Evil: New York Times Finds Obama's Approval At Lowest Ever, 46%, But Headlines Poll, Bizarrely, "Poll Finds Edge for Obama Over G.O.P. Among the Public"

I've mentioned this again and again, but just in case:

Adam Nagourney is the Times' go-to spinner on polls.

He only writes two types of stories, with two types of headlines.

When the polls are good for the Democrats, he highlights the big finding of the poll right in the headline, and trumpets it in the piece, starting at paragraph one and never stopping.

Now, when polls are bad for Democrats, he searches the poll for some very secondary or tertiary question and headlines the poll that way, as if that's the grabby information. He's positively shameless about this -- I have seen him take a poll showing, say, good poll numbers for Bush, and headline it about some minor process question, like Poll Finds Country Still Uncertain About Traffic-Light-Placement-Improvement Commission. And that's really not much of an exaggeration, either -- he will skip the ten most important and most dramatic poll questions to find something in the poll that's barely positive for Democrats, or, if he can't find that, he'll just write about some nonsense third-order question about some trivial issue, burying the main findings entirely.

He is, as I say, utterly shameless about this. His job is not to inform readers, but to cocoon them and protect them from the psychic harm of disquieting news. And over the years he's gotten... well, I can't say he's gotten "good" at it, because it's so obvious as to make you literally chuckle aloud. Let's say over the years he's gotten practiced at it.

So, the NYT poll (I think conducted with CBS; this is probably that same poll noted a day or two ago) now finds its lowest support for Obama ever, at a paltry 46%.

Do you think NYT readers might like to know this important fact?

The NYT editors don't think you do. Because Nagourney is once again pressed into service to put a DNC-approved gloss on a very ugly poll.

First of all, let's check that headline:

Poll Finds Edge for Obama Over G.O.P. Among the Public

Absurd. First of all, this is hardly a surprise. The President -- a specific person -- generally enjoys and advantage over the opposite party. That's usually true. I am guessing that only when you get down to very low poll numbers, as Bush did at the end of his term, does a vague amorphous party, comprised mostly of bad stereotypes and generalizations in the public's mind, poll better on trust and such than the President.

Furthermore, this represents no change whatsoever from previous polls. Does Obama poll ahead of the vaguely sinister GOP on many issues? Sure he does -- same as he has throughout his term. (Although that edge is declining.)

So is this news? No, it's not news. The news here, if you were determined to report this secondary finding, is that the GOP has improved on this question, and Obama deteriorated.

But for Nagourney, this old, expected, unchanged non-news is of course his lede.

I'll mark each sentence and key finding with a number, so we know how important Nagourney thinks Obama's danger-zone approval rate is.

Poll Finds Edge for Obama Over G.O.P. Among the Public

Published: February 11, 2010

WASHINGTON — At a time of deepening political disaffection and intensified distress about the economy, President Obama enjoys an edge over Republicans in the battle for public support, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.[1]

Not news. Last poll found the same thing, and so did the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that. The news here -- the change -- is, again, that Obama's edge is declining, not that he has one.

While the president is showing signs of vulnerability on his handling of the economy — a majority of respondents say he has yet to offer a clear plan for creating jobs — Americans blame former President George W. Bush, Wall Street and Congress much more than they do Mr. Obama for the nation’s economic problems and the budget deficit, the poll found. [2]

Again: Same as previous polls.

They credit Mr. Obama more than Republicans with making an effort at bipartisanship [3], and they back the White House’s policies on a variety of disputed issues, including allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military and repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. [4]

The poll suggests that both parties face a toxic environment as they prepare for the elections in November. [5]

Uh-huh. Yeah, the environment may be toxic to both but it is only lethal to one.

Public disapproval of Congress is at a historic high [6], and huge numbers of Americans think Congress is beholden to special interests. [7] Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans say members of Congress deserve re-election. [8]

As the party in power, Democrats face a particular risk from any wave of voter discontent; unfavorable views of the Democratic Party are as high as they have been since the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 [9], though Republicans continue to register an even worse showing. [10]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. [11]

Eleven. It's the eleventh most important thing in this poll, I guess.

Ahhhh... but Nagourney wants his liberal Democratic readers to know there's still hope, and indulges in a little strategy-brainstorming for his audience.

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.

Nagourney doesn't even get the pitifulness of his own spin -- he suggests the White House can change all this by using a strategy he then tells you they've been trying all year. It didn't work before, Adam. Why would it suddenly start working?

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.

“It feels like an attempt to sabotage the majority and to regain control of power rather than working on a compromise,” John Smith, a Republican from Greenville, S.C., said of his party after participating in the poll.

Ah, of course we now turn away from the cold, hard, stark numbers and start offering up anecdotal and pretty worthless "data" to reassure liberals.

And of course we start out with a Republican slamming the party.

And this Republican's name is... John Smith.

John Smith.

John Smith self-identified as a Republican with a Times pollster and started telling her how mean Republicans were.

John. Frickin'. Smith.

John Smith, presumably of 1234 Makingthisup Lane.

Shhhhhhhh... there's cocooning going on here. Be very quiet, or you'll wake up the readers Nagourney is trying to lullaby into a peaceful sleep.

Thanks to AHFF Geoff.

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posted by Ace at 01:20 PM

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