WH spokesman Robert Gibbs caused a small media ripple this week when he was asked Monday about Gallup's daily tracking poll which showed the president down three points to 47 approval rating. (On Tuesday, Obama was back up to 50 percent.)
On the company's site, Editor in Chief Frank Newport posted a response to Gibbs' mild swipe at Gallup's never-ending Obama polling data, and Newport himself raised several interesting points about the nature of polling. But this one seemed a bit off-course, as Newport oversold the significance of the daily tracking numbers:
But keeping tabs on the people's views of their elected representatives between elections is vitally important - and something in which the people of the country are demonstrably interested.
It's vitally important to know how Americans feel about Obama each and every day of the year? That seems like a stretch. (The nation seemed to manage prior to Gallup's non-stop presidential polling.)
But I thought this was even more off the mark:
Obama is set to travel to Oslo, Norway, to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The White House is probably just as interested as we are in how the American public is going to react to this event. Our tracking will give us the answer -- both in the short-term and in the long-term.
Baloney. What the Gallup numbers will do during the days when Obama travels to Norway is measure the percentage of Americans who approve of the job he's doing as president. Period. Nothing more and nothing less. The notion endorsed by Gallup--that from the extremely vague job approval questions that we can extrapolate how Americans (in this instance) view Obama's Norway trip--doesn't really make much sense. If Gallup commissioned a poll and specifically asked Americans about Norway, then sure, we'd get some insight.
But assuming that because the job approval rating question is asked when Obama is in Norway that respondents will give their answer based solely on the fact that Obama is in Norway, again, makes no sense.
And my guess is that that's the larger point Gibbs may have been trying to make on Monday, which is that the press' obsession with Obama's daily tracking numbers (an obsession, BTW, that only kicks in when the numbers inch downward) is off-base because journalists read way too many things into the generic question. Just like Frank Newport does when he claims that we'll know how Americans feel about Obama going to Norway.
Not by looking at the daily tracking poll numbers we won't.
From the December 9 Los Angeles Times article, titled, "Glenn Beck's flawed gold standard":
Radio and TV host Glenn Beck likes to talk about the potential collapse of the American economy. He also likes to talk about buying gold as a hedge against the unknown.
The proximity of those ideas, the plethora of gold ads around his Fox program and Beck's work as a paid pitchman for one gold firm have some in the media wondering whether the conservative commentator has a conflict of interest.
Since conflicts are in the eye of the beholder, Beck should consider himself lucky if the public doesn't judge him by the where-there's-smoke-there's-fire standard he uses to condemn his own adversaries.
The Washington Post has published an op-ed by Sarah Palin in which she claims that the apparently stolen Climatic Research Unit emails "reveal that leading climate 'experts' ... manipulated data to 'hide the decline' in global temperatures." This is simply false. The emails do not discuss hiding a "decline" in "global temperatures." Indeed, the Post's own news reporting directly contradicts Palin's claim. The Post needs to run a correction and explain to its readers why it allowed this nonsense to be published in the first place.
Palin is referring to a 1999 email in which CRU's Phil Jones wrote:
I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline.
Palin claims that by "hide the decline," Jones is referring to some sort nefarious conspiracy to conceal an actual decrease in "global temperatures." But this is absurd on its face. Here's a chart of average global temperatures published in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2001 report:
Beginning in the mid-1960s, there's a pretty clear long-term warming trend. In other words, there was no "decline" in "global temperatures" for Jones to hide.
So what was Jones talking about? The Washington Post has actually explained it on its news pages. In a December 5 Post article, David A. Fahrenthold and Juliet Eilperin reported that Jones "wrote a colleague that he would 'hide' a problem with data from Siberian tree rings with more accurate local air temperature measurements."
In other words, four days after two Washington Post science reporters explained that Jones was saying that he replaced problematic tree ring data with "more accurate" data from actual temperature measurements, the Post op-ed page allows Palin to claim that Jones was somehow concealing a decline in temperatures that never actually existed.
Media Matters has documented at length the distortions of Jones' 1999 email. And in a December 8 London Times op-ed, Andrew Watson, research professor at the University of East Anglia, debunked the very claim that Palin is now making:
In the one most quoted, the director of the Climate Research Unit (CRU), Phil Jones, talks about using a "trick" to "hide the decline". At first reading, this easily translates as "deceiving [politicians, other scientists, everyone] into believing the world is warming when it is actually cooling".
But it doesn't mean that at all. Jones is talking about a line on a graph for the cover of a World Meteorological Organisation report, published in 2000, which shows the results of different attempts to reconstruct temperature over the past 1,000 years. The line represents one particular attempt, using tree-ring data for temperature. The method agrees with actual measurements before about 1960, but diverges from them after that - for reasons only partly understood, discussed in the literature.
The tree-ring measure declines, but the actual temperatures after 1960 go up. They draw the line to follow the tree-ring reconstruction up to 1960 and the measured temperature after that. The notes explain that the data are "reconstructions, along with historical and long instrumental records". Not very clear perhaps, but not much of a "trick".
The RealClimate blog, which, unlike Sarah Palin's op-ed, is written by actual climate scientists, provided a similar explanation:
Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline." The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the 'trick' is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term "trick" to refer to a "a good way to deal with a problem", rather than something that is "secret", and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the 'decline', it is well known that Keith Briffa's maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the "divergence problem"-see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while 'hiding' is probably a poor choice of words (since it is 'hidden' in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.
On November 23, Fishbowl DC published an internal Fox News memo detailing the network's new "zero tolerance" policy for errors. Today -- barely two weeks later -- Fox News attempted to explain why it wasn't going to take any action to correct the following December 4 segment in which three Fox hosts and the Fox News graphics department used a string of falsehoods to turn "59 percent" into "close to 100 percent."
Here's what happened.
This morning, Media Matters' Simon Maloy caught Fox & Friends displaying a graphic that falsely suggested that 94 percent of respondents told Rasmussen Reports that it is somewhat or very likely that "scientists falsif[ied] research to support their own theories on global warming."
As Simon explained:
What happened? Well, here's the Rasmussen poll Fox & Friends cited. They asked respondents: "In order to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming, how likely is it that some scientists have falsified research data?" According to the poll, 35 percent thought it very likely, 24 percent somewhat likely, 21 percent not very likely, and 5 percent not likely at all (15 percent weren't sure).
Fox News' graphics department added together the "very likely" and "somewhat likely" numbers to reach 59 percent, and called that new group "somewhat likely." Then, for some reason, they threw in the 35 percent "very likely" as their own group, even though they already added that number to the "somewhat likely" percentage. Then they mashed together the "not very likely" and "not likely at all" groups, and threw the 15 percent who were unsure into the waste bin. Voila -- 120 percent.
As such, Fox News' presentation of the data made it seem as though 94 percent of Americans think it's at least "somewhat likely" that climate scientists falsify their research data.
So Media Matters sent an open letter to Fox News asking how the network would deal with the falsehood in light of its new policy of "zero tolerance for on-screen errors."
Well, Politico's Michael Calderone reports that Fox News has decided to respond to the falsehood by claiming it didn't happen:
But Lauren Petterson, executive producer of Fox & Friends, told POLITICO that she sees no error in the graphic. And for that reason, there will be no reprimand of staff under the "zero tolerance" policy.
"We were just talking about three interesting pieces of information from Rasmussen," Petterson said. "We didn't put on the screen that it added up to 100 percent."
While Petterson maintains that Fox & Friend's didn't err in displaying the information from Rasmussen, she acknowledges that the presentation wasn't perfect. "The mistake I do see is we could have been a little clearer here," she said.
Fox's position is absurd. As Calderone notes, "its understandable why a viewer would look at the numbers stacked up like this on-screen and assume that '94 percent of American's think it's at least "somewhat likely" that climate scientists falsify their research data.' "
One "viewer" who apparently "assumed" that was ... Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy. Here's how he described the Rasmussen poll while Fox was showing that graphic:
DOOCY: Let's go ahead and take a look: Did scientists falsify research to support their own theories on global warming? This is a brand new Rasmussen poll. About 60 percent of you say, "Somewhat likely." Thirty-five percent say, "Very likely." So you got 90 -- you got a lot of people right there thinking it is likely, although 26 percent say, "Not very likely."
So in purporting to explain the poll results, Doocy claimed that 60 percent of respondents answered, "Somewhat likely." This is false. Only 24 percent of respondents said that; the "about 60 percent" figure actually combines the "somewhat likely" and "very likely" respondents. Doocy then suggested that a separate group of respondents -- 35 percent -- said, "Very likely." Doocy then attempted to add those two figures together, saying, "So you got 90 -- you got a lot of people right there thinking it is likely."
But the falsehoods didn't stop there. As soon as Doocy finished misrepresenting the poll, co-hosts Gretchen Carlson and Eric Bolling explained that since the poll had been conducted before the apparent theft and disclosure of climate scientists' private emails, the percentage of people who think scientists are falsifying data might now be "substantially higher" -- perhaps "close to 100 percent":
CARLSON: In the spirit of fairness, I believe that question was asked before these emails were revealed, so that poll number may actually be different now.
BOLLING: Substantially higher?
CARLSON: It might be, yes.
BOLLING: Close to 100 percent now.
This is completely false. The right-wing media began lying about the Climatic Research Unit emails on November 20. The Rasmussen poll was conducted December 1-2. It included a question about the CRU emails. So, no, the current figure is probably not "substantially higher," and it is certainly not "close to 100 percent."
As Media Matters' Ari Rabin-Havt put it, "On Fox News, percentages don't add up to 100 and, apparently, 'zero tolerance' means unless we get caught."
Yahoo! News writer Brett Michael Dykes wrote:
Yet another controversy appears to be brewing around Fox News host Glenn Beck. Some are accusing him of a blatant conflict of interest concerning his frequent on-air promotion of an investment sold by one of his main advertisers: Gold.
For some time Beck critics have cried foul over his relationship with Goldline International, a precious metalsvendor that features the TV and radio host's endorsement prominently on their website. Critics charge that Beck is guilty of misleading his audience by often advising them to purchase gold in advance of the potential collapse of the value of the dollar on the world currency market, without disclosing that he is in fact a "paid spokesman" for Goldline. Beck's on-air promotion of gold, which includes advising viewers to construct "fruit cellars" and to rely on a "three G system" of "God, Gold, and Guns" in the event of America's collapse, dates back to his time as a host for CNN Headline News.
Dykes also wrote:
Beck's promotion of gold presents a potential problem for Fox News, which strictly prohibits on-air personalities from making paid product endorsements. Whencontacted by Daily Finance for a comment on the matter, Fox News senior vice-president for development Joel Cheatwood said the network "makes an exception for its commentators who are also radio hosts," adding that they knew upfront that hiring Beck came with the understanding that he was also a radio host and that they "had to be accepting of certain elements of that." Nevertheless, a Fox spokeswoman said that the company is addressing the matter with Beck's agent, George Hiltzik.
Eighty advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." Here are his December 8 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, look what the LA Times' Andrew Malcolm did again.
Malcolm is once again trying to compare President Obama's approval ratings with Sarah Palin's popularity ratings - despite being called out on this blog for doing that just two weeks ago - to claim there is only a 1-point gap in their favorability ratings.
"Shocker polls: That Sarah Palin-Barack Obama gap melts to 1 point" reads Malcolm's headline.
Problem is, it's not true.
Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, look what the pollsters just brought in.
A pair of new surveys revealing that President Obama is still declining and has hit a new low in job approval among Americans just 56 weeks after they elected him with a decided margin.
And -- wait for it -- Republican Sarah Palin is successfully selling a whole lot more than books out there on the road. Even among those not lining up in 10-degree weather to catch a glimpse of pretty much the only political celebrity the GOP has these days.
Obama's new Gallup Poll job approval number is 47%. Last month it was 53%.
Regular Ticket readers will recall how in this space in late November we pointed out that Obama's closely watched job approval slide was coinciding with Palin's little-noticed rise in favorability. And it appeared they might cross somewhere in the 40s.
Well, ex-Sen. Obama, meet ex-Gov. Palin.
The new CNN/Opinion Research Poll shows Palin now at 46% favorable, just one point below her fellow basketball fan.
Malcolm is comparing Obama's Gallup approval number with Palin's CNN favorability rating.
In other words, Malcolm's picking more cherries than Cedric Ceballos.
In fact, CNN hasn't asked about Obama's favorability since October 16-18, but at that point, it was at 60%.
Nor has Gallup asked about Palin's favorability since October 1-4, but at that point, it was at 40%.
So we know as much as we did two weeks ago.
Which is that Palin is nowhere near as popular as Obama - and Andrew Malcolm is still a hack.
Wonkette and CJR do the honors this time around.
We don't really know what to make of this David Carr column about the White House going overboard with the YouTubes and Flickrs and Facebooks and iTunes and, probably, Twitters and Wii. Yes, it's a bit much, sometimes, even though we require a steady stream of Obamaporn to feed the carnal-political hope-desires of you, our loyal reader.
But it's impossible to look at the Obama Presidency's "social media" bullshit in a bubble. EVERYBODY does this stuff, now, all the time, and Sarah Palin is only the most visible "opposition" example. Does she even exist, outside of Facebook?
And from CJR:
It's hard to tell whether the greatest irony of the "Is Obama Overexposed?" question is that it's asked, straight-faced, by the same media who perpetrate the alleged overexposure—or that it's asked by the same media who, in the next breath, might accuse Obama of not being transparent enough about his messaging—or that it is, as a topic, itself flagrantly overexposed. Regardless, "IOO?" is a cyclical, back-pocket, evergreen-in-a-moldy-kind-of-way question that pops up from its dormant depths every once in a while, like so many gophers or specialty sandwiches or raging cases of athlete's foot.
Amen and amen.
It sure looks that way, argues David Fiderer at Huffington Post. By relentless hyping the so-called "Climate-gate" story, which is built around stolen emails that were obtained by hackers, as well as calling out other news organizations for not jumping on the story, Fiderer suggests Fox News is guilty of legitimizing an obvious act of cyber-terrorism.
George Will, Lou Dobbs and Newt Gingrich have all lent their support to this broad-based campaign effort by Fox News to legitimize the work of criminals who lurk in the shadows. The criminals, who remain unidentified and still at large, stole confidential e-mails, selectively edited them, and disseminated them to promote the crackpot belief that the scientific case for global warming is not rock solid.
When The Washington Times announced it would be laying off 40 percent of the staff, reports of the move stated that the paper desired to focus on its "core strengths," which included "cultural coverage based on traditional values." Apparently, that includes the continuity of the paper's relentless anti-gay crusade.
Readers of this site are certainly familiar with The Washington Times' history of anti-gay rhetoric. This is, after all, a paper that repeatedly warned of a gay "assault upon traditional norms and values" and whose former editor-in-chief defended the ban on gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military by arguing that it prevents violence against "a randy gay caballero" who "starts making eyes at a straight." They use scare quotes around "partners" and gay "marriage," a practice that was reportedly banned by former editor John Solomon, but was quickly reinstated upon his departure from the paper.
Most recently, The Washington Times has been waging an anti-gay war on Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, an openly gay former educator who has worked tirelessly to increase awareness of gay and lesbian issues in the education system. A gay man responsible for education policy focused on keeping kids safe? Obviously, the Times could not let this stand. So, they've invested incredible interest and editorial page space to smearing Jennings as an "extremist" who promoted a "bizarre sexual agenda" and supports "homosexual pedophiles" who prey on children.
In its most recent Jennings attack, The Washington Times dubbed Jennings "Obama's buggery czar," attempted to link him to NAMBLA, and accused Jennings of promoting relationships between children and "homosexual pedophiles." Media Matters has extensively documented the lengths to which the paper has gone to distort Jennings' past in what appears to be a less-than-subtle attempt to play on small-minded fears that gay men and women prey on children that they could then recruit to their homosexual lifestyle. And, despite the massive shake-ups at the flailing paper, its obsessive focus on Jennings remains undeterred. I, for one, am not surprised that one of the Times' "core strengths" on which the paper will focus is gay bashing.