Two Polls, Two Narratives

If you wonder how and why political people cherry-pick public opinion surveys to reinforce their “narratives” of what’s actually happening, there’s an excellent example today.

The GOP line is that Obama is sinking into irretrievable Bush-second-term-land, his credibility being fatally eroded by Obamacare’s problems. Handily for this point of view, Quinnipiac’s got a new survey out showing the president’s job approval rating sagging to an all-time low (38/57), worse even that last month’s all-time low of 39/54.

The Democratic line is that with HealthCare.gov’s performance slowly improving and attention refocusing on other issues, the November slough for the president is over. And sure enough, a new Pew survey has his approval ratio back up to 45/49 (after bottoming out at 41/53 last month), pretty much where it was before all the HealthCare.gov brouhaha.

The two polls were taken at the same time with roughly equal samples, though Quinnipiac’s was limited to registered voters while Pew polled “adults.” Q-Pac has in the recent past been generally on the low end of measurements of Obama’s approval ratings, for whatever that’s worth.

So: pick your poll and pick your narrative, or better yet, wait until a lot more evidence is in.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.