The Gang of 500 and D.C.’s insider chattering class was rocked by a subtext of New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney’s recent analysis of President Bush’s woeful poll numbers (Poll Gives Bush His Worst Marks Yet, May 10, 2006).
But, tucked inside the Nagourney opus was the bombshell that “The political situation has not helped some of the more prominent members of the Democratic Party. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who was Mr. Bush’s opponent in 2004, had a lower approval rating than Mr. Bush: 26 percent, down from 40 percent in a poll conducted right after the election. And just 28 percent said they had a favorable view of Al Gore, one of Mr. Bush’s more vocal critics.”
Of course, within minutes the other conveyors of insider conventional wisdom picked up on the questionable Nagourney insight: Maureen Dowd chimed in suggesting that “Even Hillary Clinton has a more favorable rating than W. — 34 percent. The president can draw some solace: John Kerry’s at 26 and Al Gore’s at 28 percent. And Dick Cheney is in the bunker at 20.” (Maureen Dowd: Father and Son reunion, May 10, 2006)
David Brooks jumped out there in his column cuttingly suggesting that “George Bush’s approval numbers are so low that he’s now only five points more popular than John Kerry and three points more popular than Al Gore.” (David Brooks: “Don’t Worry Be Happy” May 11, 2006)
Alas, there’s only one problem with this — Nagourney misled his readers -– and apparently he misled these other columnists (and bloggers) who happily drank his Kool-Aid.
In his rush to slam Kerry, Nagourney didn’t even bother to explain to his readers an oddity of this NYT poll which even had folk hero and Republican ’08 frontrunner John McCain at a politically perilous 31% favorability rating himself.
How could that possibly be? (Nagourney doesn’t even mention it!)
But back to the main point… So how did John Kerry’s political standing deteriorate so quickly?
After all, just weeks before, a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll reported that “Unhappiness with Bush is so pervasive that 49 percent of registered voters say they would vote for Massachusetts Senator John Kerry if the 2004 presidential election were held today, to 39 percent who say they would vote for the president.”
The answer: it didn’t.
We looked into the favorability ratings from several recent polls to understand why there are such differences between the New York Times/CBS News rating and other recent ratings.
The key difference Adam Nagourney doesn’t bother telling you? The big caveat Adam Nagourney is afraid to tell you?
The inclusion of an “undecided” option in the New York Times/CBS News poll, an option most other polls do not have.
As you can see below, each figure has high undecided ratings. In Kerry’s case, or McCain’s case, it’s likely that a segment of people who would probably go to “somewhat favorable” end up in the “undecided” category.
Those people most likely still have generally favorable (but not strongly favorable or defined) opinions of both John Kerry or John McCain.
FAVORABILITY RATINGS: The New York Times/CBS News Poll, May 4-8, 2006. (N=1,241 adults nationwide, including oversample of N=500, age 65+. MoE ± 3.)
“Is your opinion of John Kerry favorable, not favorable, undecided, or haven’t you heard enough about John Kerry yet to have an opinion?”
Favorable – 26%
Not favorable – 38%
Undecided – 21%
Haven’t heard enough – 13%
Refused – 1%
“Is your opinion of Hillary Rodham Clinton favorable, not favorable, undecided, or haven’t you heard enough about Hillary Rodham Clinton yet to have an opinion?”
Favorable – 34%
Not favorable – 35%
Undecided – 23%
Haven’t heard enough – 9%
Refused – 0%
“Is your opinion of John McCain favorable, not favorable, undecided, or haven’t you heard enough about John McCain yet to have an opinion?”
Favorable – 31%
Not favorable – 15%
Undecided – 25%
Haven’t heard enough – 28%
Refused – 1%
This piss poor reporting from Adam Nagourney isn’t something new — it’s habitual. Ron cites one recent example here. Nagourney is clearly a member of the Lapdog breed, most recently discussed here last week in reference to Eric Boehlert’s new book, “Lapdogs.”
Lapdogs aren’t sweet little cuddly, furry balls of fun — no, on the contrary, they are misleading, deceiving media shills who have rolled over for the Bush administration and as we see from this most recent example from Nagourney, despite the LOW approval ratings for Bush, that took yet another dump yesterday, they still continue to roll over.
UPDATE: More Kool Aid drinking here.