Misperceptions and Media Bungles

Matt Towery
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Posted: May 07, 2010 12:01 AM
Misperceptions and Media Bungles

Being fair as a pollster isn't that hard if you don't have an agenda. The same can be said of opinion pieces, as long as you can persuade readers to join you in weighing all sides of an issue. So here's my go at interjecting reality into some contemporary issues that often have been distorted.

1) President Obama's approval ratings. CBS News has it at 51 percent, with 37 percent disapproving of the job he's doing. The rest are undecided. Ludicrous polls like this rarely draw the criticism in Washington political and media circles that polls by, say, Rasmussen do. Rasmussen sometimes shows Obama's approval rating as lagging his disapproval rating by as much as 10 points -- the opposite extreme of the CBS poll.

Michelle Malkin

The average of all national polls shows the president's approval rating at around 48 percent and his disapproval at 45 percent. So while he is not the revered hero CBS would have us believe, he is also not considered an abject disaster by the public. (CBS polls appear to under-sample Republicans, based on the generally accepted axiom that partisan identification in America is now about evenly split.) Suffice to say Obama is not Mr. Popular right now.

2) A new Gallup Poll says that GOP voter intensity -- how excited Republicans are about turning out to vote in this year's elections -- has dropped. This is true enough, but so what? There's nothing now in the news to equal the health care legislation that so enflamed Republican passions. Besides, the same poll shows Democrats' enthusiasm about voting to be about 10 points below that of Republicans.

For the GOP, the good news is that by the time campaign TV ads start running and we're well into the fall election season, Republican voter intensity likely will be sky-high. The bad news is that despite many Washington insiders saying the GOP will take majority control of the House, my best guess for now is that some significant new political development may have to arise for that to happen.

3) Most media underplayed the fact that the man who tried to bomb Times Square has ties to Islamic terrorists. This shouldn't just be a part of the story, it should be THE story. Had the bomb worked, the Gulf Oil spill -- horrendous as it has been -- would be below the fold on newspaper front pages.

Few want to face the truth -- most Americans resent that they have to undergo the third degree when boarding airplanes, even though they don't remotely resemble the profile of successful modern-day terrorists. That, while those who do fit the profile seem to get waived past security. This is not my opinion, but a well-researched fact that also is underreported.

4) As for offshore drilling, proponents of more drilling can expect to wait at least six months before this is politically feasible. The first wave of media photos depicting oil-drenched wildlife or unemployed fishermen will see to that.

5) For all the hysteria about Arizona's new immigration law, public opinion continues to harden in favor of enforcement of such laws, and of the repatriation of illegals. Again, this is not my opinion, but the scientifically documented opinion of the American public.

Now for some bad news for conservatives. While it has become common on radio talk shows and in the more conservative press to refer to President Obama as a "socialist," most Americans aren't buying it. Moreover, my research shows that such labeling of the president only tends to close the minds of Americans who might otherwise be receptive to changing their views to conservative ones.

At the same time, most Americans have come to genuinely dislike Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Will it occur to Republican message-makers to copy the Democrats' successful tying together of Bob Dole and the then-unpopular Newt Gingrich in 1996?

The GOP could similarly demonize the Democratic agenda this fall by attributing it to Pelosi. (By the way, while I now view Mitt Romney as the strongest candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, my former colleague Gingrich topped a recent national poll of Republicans who were asked whom they might support in two years.)

6) Finally, to whatever genius let Paula Abdul leave "American Idol," thank you! I'm tired of the show -- and apparently most of America is, too. With Simon out of the picture, maybe the show should be renamed "American Disaster" if it runs next year.