Politico's Ben Smith leaves out context in his Obama's-bad-poll-number item

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

First, only at Politico do writers hype as news events that might happen:

Historically, Obama's fall is fast

Here's the lede [emphasis added]:

President Barack Obama's approval ratings, once seen as historically high, could soon be among the worst early poll numbers for a modern American president...

The Gallup Organization — whose polls show Obama at just 50 percent approval rating less than eight months into his first term — says only two modern presidents, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton, saw their approval ratings drop below 50 percent by this time in their presidencies. Ronald Reagan is the next in line, with his numbers dipping after 10 months, while Jimmy Carter retained positive approval numbers for more than a year.

Could Obama's ratings soon become the worst in history? It's possible. Could they soon become the best in history? Also equally possible. (Do you see how pointless this exercise is?)

There are other problems in the Politico report, though. For instance, when readers follow the link to Gallup daily tracking poll, they discover that Obama's approval rating actually stands at 52 percent, not "just 50 percent," as Smith claimed in his report. (The 50 percent mark was hit briefly last week.)

But here's the missing context: In June of 2001 George Bush's approval ratings, according to Gallup, had fallen to 52 percent, just five months into his first term. But for some reason in an item about how Obama's "fall" may be "historically" "fast," Smith forgets to mention that Bush fell faster (by two months) than Obama did.

But no matter. For Smith, the item was a success because last night Karl Rove was tweeting about how Obama's ratings had fallen "faster than any president in modern history." The claim is completely false, but it sure seemed to be on the one Politico wanted to push.

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