Can't anyone read a poll?

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Washington Post reporter Ed O'Keefe, during today's "Post Politics Hour":

I think we're already starting to see signs of Obama taking the blame. Look at last week's Post-ABC poll that showed that while most Americans still like Obama personally, they've got serious concerns about how he's going to address the deficit, the economic stimulus plan and health care reform efforts.

The poll to which O'Keefe refers does not say anything about whether Americans "like Obama personally." The poll asked whether respondents "approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president?" Personal favorability and job approval ratings are not the same thing, no matter how much journalists conflate them.

Saying Americans "like Obama personally" but have "serious concerns" about how he is going to do his job is a distortion of the poll's actual findings, which is that a strong majority of Americans approve of how Obama is doing his job.

As for those "serious concerns," the poll finds that 56 percent of Americans approve of Obama's handling of the economy while only 41 percent disapprove. Health care: 53 percent approve, 39 percent disapprove. The public is split, 48-48 on his handling of deficits. O'Keefe's description of the poll as showing "serious concerns" about Obama's handling of these issues is misleading.

Actually, it's worse than that looks. O'Keefe's phrasing is forward-looking: "serious concerns about how he's going to address ..." The Post and ABC also asked whether respondents trusted Obama or Republicans in Congress to handle a variety of issues; that question is pertinent to O'Keefe's phrasing. On health care, Obama had a 55-27 advantage; on the economy, he led 55-31; and on the budget deficit he led 56-30.

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Ed O'Keefe
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