The Washington Times’ False Popularity Contest

I’m just going to flat-out steal this great post from Eric Boehlert at Media Matters on this insane Washington Times editorial, which declares President Obama to be historically unpopular:  

President Obama’s media cheerleaders are hailing how loved he is. But at the 100-day mark of his presidency, Mr. Obama is the second-least-popular president in 40 years.

According to Gallup’s April survey, Americans have a lower approval of Mr. Obama at this point than all but one president since Gallup began tracking this in 1969. The only new president less popular was Bill Clinton, who got off to a notoriously bad start after trying to force homosexuals on the military and a federal raid in Waco, Texas, that killed 86. Mr. Obama’s current approval rating of 56 percent is only one tick higher than the 55-percent approval Mr. Clinton had during those crises.

As the attached chart shows, five presidents rated higher than Mr. Obama after 100 days in office. Ronald Reagan topped the charts in April 1981 with 67 percent approval. Following the Gipper, in order of popularity, were: Jimmy Carter with 63 percent in 1977; George W. Bush with 62 percent in 2001; Richard Nixon with 61 percent in 1969; and George H.W. Bush with 58 percent in 1989.

As Boehlert points out, this would be true if it were, you know, true … which it isn’t, since Obama’s approval rating is actually 65%, not 56% as the Washington Times claims.  Thus:

Compared to previous presidents at the 100 day mark, Obama is more popular than Bush, Clinton, and Bush. Only Reagan polled better, and that was right after he survived an assassination attempt in March of his first year in office. So if you set aside Reagan’s rather extraordinary circumstances, Obama is more popular at the 100 day mark than any president since Lyndon Johnson.  

Here is what Gallup itself says:

As President Barack Obama concludes his first 100 days on the job, Gallup Poll Daily tracking for the week of April 20-26 finds 65% of Americans approving of how he is doing and only 29% disapproving. Obama’s average weekly job ratings have varied only slightly thus far, ranging from 61% to 67%.

The new president’s approval rating at the 100-day mark is notable in that nearly all major demographic categories of Americans are pleased with his job performance, as evidenced by approval ratings above the majority level. Only in terms of political and ideological categories does Obama have a significant proportion of detractors; a majority of Republicans and self-described “conservatives” disapprove of his job performance.

Bottom Line

Obama’s weekly job approval ratings in the Gallup Poll have been running at 61% or better since he took office, and register 65% at the conclusion of his first 100 days. According to a recent Gallup review of the average first-quarter approval ratings of all elected presidents since Dwight Eisenhower in 1953, Obama’s mid-60s approval level is solidly positive, although not extraordinary in historical terms.

And if you follow the “recent Gallup review” link, here is what you find:

Obama’s 63% first-quarter average matches the historical average of 63% for elected presidents’ first quarters since 1953. However, it is the fourth highest for a newly elected president since that time, and the highest since Jimmy Carter’s 69% in 1977. The historical first-quarter average includes two presidents whose scores exceeded 70% (John Kennedy’s 74% and Dwight Eisenhower’s 71%).

From a broader historical perspective, Obama’s 63% quarterly average is well above the historical norm for all approval ratings, regardless of presidential quarter. It ranks in the 74th percentile of all presidential quarters since 1945, and is significantly better than the 54% average rating for all presidential quarters.

So Gallup itself says that Obama’s approval rating “is well above the historical norm for all approval ratings,” but the Washington Times, citing Gallup’s poll, declares Obama to be “the second-least-popular president in 40 years.”

Allow me to second Boehlert’s amazement at this editorial and his declaration that “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t read it with my own eyes” because I honestly didn’t believe it until I clicked through his post and read it with my own eyes.