Whistling Past the Bad Polls

In March 2006, CBS News announced that President George W. Bush had stumbled into a “record low” approval rating of 34 percent. All the other networks jumped on the poll. CNN was reporting the number every hour on the hour. The survey confirmed their suspicions. The wheels on the Bush presidency had come off.

Last week, ABC and The Washington Post found Barack Obama is "facing the worst poll numbers of his presidency,” with an approval rating of 41 percent, and 52 percent disapproving. It's another administration on political life support. ABC offered its own survey a mere 18 seconds of attention from “Good Morning America” on April 29, and nothing on its own news that night. The others said nothing.

ABC morning anchor Amy Robach noted: "And President Obama is returning to Washington today, facing the worst poll numbers of his presidency. His approval rating has dropped to 41 percent, mostly because of the economy." That was the alpha and omega.

They had no time for anything else, including the other numbers. ABC’s website expanded a bit. "Registered voters by 53-39 percent in the national survey say they'd rather see the Republicans in control of Congress as a counterbalance to Obama’s policies than a Democratic-led Congress to help support him." How was that not part of the story, in either the ABC morning or evening TV news reports?

ABC's poll was no fluke. Shortly thereafter NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found Obama’s approval rating at 44 percent, 50 percent disapproving, still awful. NBC morning anchor Natalie Morales spent only 46 seconds on the poll numbers, this time giving it NBC's shameless Team Obama spin. “President Obama's popularity is up slightly, and so is his embattled health care law, this according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. The President's approval rating is at 44 percent. That's up three points since March. Still, though, 50 percent of those polled disapprove of the job the President is doing.”

Up three points since March? How would anyone know that? When NBC News found Obama at his all-time low at 41 percent in March, NBC completely ignored its own results. The Wall Street Journal noted this three-point rise is within the poll’s margin of error, meaning the numbers may not have changed since the nadir in March -- a fact also omitted from NBC’s new reporting.

On “Morning Joe,” NBC senior White House cheerleader Chuck Todd actually celebrated these poll numbers, pointing out that Obama's and Obamacare's approval numbers had now risen to the level right before the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov on October 1, as if it was the rollout debacle that caused them to become unpopular. Joe Scarborough shot back that Obamacare pre-rollout was approved by only 36 percent. It has never been close to popular.

Back in October, the Associated Press-GfK poll found Barack Obama’s approval rating at a dismal 37 percent. As to be expected, the networks ignored the poll findings. Amazingly, AP almost did so as well. Radio hosts mocked the AP for burying the number in paragraph eight of a story headlined “Poll: No Heroes In Shutdown, GOP Gets Most Blame.”

When Republicans are sinking in the polls, no one in America can miss it. The liberal media won’t let them. But when Republicans are rising in the polls, mum's the word. It’s quite easy for the average voter to miss it. The average voter has no concept of it. This is not an isolated example from a single source. This is the rule within an industry that has abandoned all pretenses of professional ethics.

Try this one. On May 5, USA Today published the front-page headline "Poll shows biggest advantage for Republicans in 2 decades." The GOP advantage was only 47 percent to 43, but USA Today pointed out this is “the strongest tilt to Republican candidates at this point in a midterm year in at least two decades, including before partisan 'waves' in 1994 and 2010 that swept the GOP into power.” That’s not all. Sixty five percent of Americans "want the president elected in 2016 to pursue different policies and programs than the Obama administration."

The networks? Quiet as church mice. It sounds ridiculous, but no "news" reporter wants the country to know the direction the country is going in.