A June 16-18 YouGov.com poll (at Page 25) reported that 47% of Americans in a sample of 1,000 U.S. citizens 18 and over had heard or heard about President Barack Obama's June 8 claim that "the private sector is doing fine."
The reaction of John Sides, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at George Washington University, as picked up by Byron Tau at the Politico, is that this "low" percentage shows that "even after national headlines, some kinds of stories just don’t register to busy Americans who have more things to do than follow every jot and tittle of the news." You've got to be kidding me; 47% is amazingly high.
Even before getting to a most fundamental but underappreciated point, let's look at the survey itself, which contains at least three elements indicating that awareness on the part of likely voters, especially those who are likely to be undecided at this point, is much higher:
- The question itself -- "In a press conference last week, President Obama was asked about the state of the economy. How did he describe economic growth in the private sector?" -- was open-ended. If respondents had been asked, "Did you hear or hear about President Obama saying that "the private sector is doing fine" a week ago, the percentage would likely have been several points higher, possibly even by double digits.
- 59% of independents, the group most likely to contain undecided voters, were able to recite the remark.
- The survey's population was of "1,000 U.S. citizens" means everyone, including those who aren't registered to vote and the serially apathetic.
But the far bigger point is one which was made back in 2005 (the link is from 2007, but the underlying post which is no longer available was published in 2005) by Allan Hoffenblum, who is currently Publisher and Co-Editor of the California Target Book®, and who appears to be far more in touch with the real world than Mr. Sides:
Hoffenblum divides the electoriate into two groups, the “14%’ers” and the “86%’ers.” The “14%’ers” are actively involved in politics, they participate in local elections, and they keep themselves up-to-date on what is happening in their communities. The other 86% don’t much care about politics and don’t spend any effort informing themselves about what is going on.
The informed “14%’ers” are much more partisan than the uninformed “86%’ers” and get their information from a much more diverse range of sources. The “86%’ers” — when they learn anything — tend to get their information through television and advertising.
One could argue that improvements in news access thanks to technology and the advent of the Tea Party movement have increased the percentage who are relatively engaged by a bit. But it seems naive to claim that it's even 20% now.
Having established that, Obama's "the private sector is fine" comment has broken through to anywhere from 34% (if absolutely every engaged person is aware of the remark and their percentage of the population is now 20%, leading to a result of dividing the remaining 27% who are aware by 80% who are disengaged) to 38% (if the engaged are still 14%, the result of 33% divided by 86%). To the extent that any of the engaged somehow missed Obama's remark, that serves to increase the percentage of the disengaged who were aware of it.
That strikes me as amazing -- and certainly not comforting to Team Obama, considering the remark's obvious toxicity. Mitt Romney and the Republican Party's candidates for national office have 4-1/2 more months and what appears to be a lot of not-so-good private sector news on the horizon to remind voters of what Obama said.
What's also amazing is that someone like the Politico's Tau either couldn't or wouldn't (I vote for the latter) see through what appears to be particularly desperate spin disguised as expertise from someone who at the very least leans quite a bit to the left and buys the Pew-generated garbage that "there hasn’t been 'blatant (press) bias' toward Obama."
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.