Yesterday, we pointed out the Beltway media phenomenon that revolves around hyping polling results that show President Obama's popularity slipping. Polls that show Obama holding steady or even making gains are dismissed as routine and unimportant. But even a single poll (possibly an outlier) that delivers bad news for Obama? That must be treated very, very seriously.
And yesterday, the press gave a Quinnipiac poll the very, very serious treatment: Obama's down to a 42 percent approval rating! Well, he is in one poll. His running average is closer to 48 percent, which is where it's pretty much been --give or take-- since late 2009.
To highlight what's going on with the Quinnipiac poll, and how it's been selected out of the usual pile of polling results and anointed as very, very important, let's look at how Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal treated the results.
Online at its Washing Wire site, which offers "readers an informal look at the capital's comings and goings in a series of newsy, and sometimes even gossipy, items," the Journal posted this headline:
Quinnipiac Poll: Obama Approval Sinks
The write-up itself was very straight-forward in terms of detailing the results and noting how they represent a decline for the president. And as we noted, that's pretty much what the New York Daily News, and The Hill, and Politico and lots and lots of other news outlets did: Quinnipiac had Obama faltering; therefore the Quinnipiac polls was big news.
But here's what's telling. For the entire month of March, the Journal's Washington Wire posted nearly 200 items chronicling Beltway politics. And you know how many of those nearly 200 Washington Wire headlines dealt with Obama's approval rating?
One. The Quinnipiac poll headline.
All month long, as they always do, news organization such as the AP, CNN, Reuters, and Washington Post released polling data that gave us a snapshot of Obama's approval rating. And all month long Washington Wire ignored those results. It was only when a single poll, out of dozens released in March, arrived and showed the president's approval slipping, only then did the Washington Wire devote time, energy, and space to hyping the results.
Why? Because one bad poll for Obama = big news.