When the approval rate of a Republican (i.e. George W. Bush) flounders, leftists are generally eager to accept polling results as a concrete reflection of public sentiment. On the other hand, at least one prominent administration pollster wants to conceal Barack Obama’s increasingly depressed popularity.
Joel Benenson, who has served as Obama’s lead pollster since 2008, told reporters that they should not report on public opinion polls in the coming year.
When prompted to provide a New Year’s resolution, he responded, “Go one year without reporting any public polling data.”
For someone who made a career out of doing exactly that, such a proclamation was obviously precipitated by a major event. Apparently, that shift was caused by Obama’s freefalling public approval.
With most sources showing a drop of about 10 points over the past year, the persistent drop is unquestionably newsworthy. To Benenson, however, polling results are misleading.
Tellingly, there were no similar admonitions when Obama’s approval rate was well north of 50 percent.
Offering an explanation for his advice, Benenson said that many polls are “reported on strictly a topline, horserace-type perspective that does nothing, or at best very little, to illuminate the news of the day.”
He further elaborated, noting that if his original suggestion was “too strict,” the media might report only polls that contain “in-depth analysis of the underlying dynamics that are truly shaping the data.”
Of course, such peripheral information is rarely needed to gauge the direction of public opinion.
If that news happens to be a rampant mistrust of the president, a poll supporting that evidence is quite helpful. Committed ideologues, though, will put their agenda above reason every time.
As the midterm elections of 2014 approach, continually sagging polling results will negatively affect Democrat candidacies across the U.S. While such collateral damage is expected and, in many cases, deserved, Benenson’s proposition would shelter these leftist hopefuls.
Polls have long been an integral part of campaigns. When the results are unfavorable, however, ideologues like Benenson will do whatever it takes to protect their allies.
—B. Christopher Agee
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