Two polls on President Barack Obama's popularity reach conclusions that could hardly be more different.
A New York Times/CBS News poll says that Obama is "benefiting from remarkably high levels of optimism and confidence among Americans about his leadership." But a Gallup poll reports slipping support, and a doubling of his disapproval rate.
The first clue about whose poll probably more closely reflects America's mood is the over-the-top, almost Granma-like narrative coming from Jeff Zeleny and Megan Thee-Brenan at Manhattan's Old Gray Lady, whose parent company's stock price in noontime trading today is back below the cost of its Sunday edition (bolds are mine):
President Obama is benefiting from remarkably high levels of optimism and confidence among Americans about his leadership, providing him with substantial political clout as he confronts the nation’s economic challenges and opposition from nearly all Republicans in Congress, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
A majority of people surveyed in both parties said Mr. Obama was striving to work in a bipartisan way, but most faulted Republicans for their response to the president, saying the party had objected to the $787 billion economic stimulus plan for political reasons. Most said Mr. Obama should pursue the priorities he campaigned on, the poll found, rather than seek middle ground with Republicans.
..... A month into Mr. Obama’s term, with his first big accomplishments, setbacks and political battles behind him, more than three-quarters of the people polled said they were optimistic about the next four years with him as president. Similar percentages said that they thought he was bringing real change to the way things were done in Washington and that they had confidence in his ability to make the right decisions about the economy.
The aura of good will surrounding Mr. Obama at this stage of his presidency is similar to the one that benefited Ronald Reagan as he led the nation out of economic gloom.
With a job approval rating of 63 percent, Mr. Obama is in a strong position to sell his economic policies.
Is it Palm Sunday yet? At least the Times acknowledges what Reagan actually did, which is a rarity.
The Times's slurping blather would be at least slightly tolerable if it weren't for the inconvenient fact that Gallup isn't seeing things the same way at all (HT to LAT's Top of the Ticket; link is in original; bolds are mine):
Survey Reveals Broad Support for President
President Barack Obama remains highly popular among the U.S. public at the end of his first month in office. However, the 63% of Americans currently approving of his job performance is down slightly from his initial 68% rating in January. The percentage disapproving has doubled, from 12% to 24%.
Increased public disapproval of Obama over the past month is mainly offset by a decrease in the percentage of Americans saying they have no opinion of his job performance. The latest figures are based on Gallup Poll Daily tracking from Feb. 19-21.
These shifts result in a slightly different profile for Obama relative to past presidents than what he enjoyed in the immediate afterglow of his inauguration. While Obama's initial 68% job approval rating was one of the highest in Gallup polling history (from Dwight Eisenhower through George W. Bush), his current 63% job approval rating is typical of how the last several presidents have fared at the one-month mark.
In fact a re-sorted look at the table at the link reveals the following approval-disapproval ranking of the past six newly-elected presidents after one month in office in descending order of approval shows that the new president's numbers are nothing special:
Bush 41, 63-13
Barack Obama, 63-24
Bush 43, 62-21
So much for "aura." Obama's positive v. negative gap of 39 points (63-24)is slightly lower than Bush 43's 41 points (62-21), even though the Texan's election was one of the most drawn-out and contentious in history. It's only 2 points higher than Reagan's 37 points (55-18).
Back to the Times's poll: How did the its writers compare Obama's popularity to Reagan's, when no question relating to previous presidents was in their poll (PDF here), and no other frame of reference was provided?
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.