Unreliable source: Amy Holmes advanced Obama approval falsehood on CNN
CNN's Amy Holmes asserted that President Obama "is the fourth least popular of the past five presidents." In fact, Gallup itself recently reported that, by two different measures, Obama's approval rating is the second highest of any president since 1969.
During the May 3 edition  of CNN's Reliable Sources, political contributor Amy Holmes asserted that "one of the little-known facts -- The Washington Times reported this last week -- is that, actually, at this point in his presidency, Barack Obama is the fourth least popular of the past five presidents." Holmes added: "You wouldn't know that from the press coverage. And you wouldn't know that George Bush in -- you know, at this point in his presidency in 2001, after having had the recount, not even winning the popular vote, in fact had higher Gallup approvals than Barack Obama does right now."
As Media Matters for America recently  documented , this falsehood, which has made its way from a blog post to Fox News to the April 28 Times editorial  to which Holmes referred, is based on an apples-to-oranges comparison between an April 20-21 Gallup poll  question that asked respondents to "rate the job Barack Obama has been doing as president so far -- excellent, good, just okay, poor, or terrible," and the historical results of the traditional Gallup approval rating poll question that simply asked whether respondents "approve" or "disapprove" of the president's performance. Based on its traditional presidential approval poll question, Gallup itself recently reported that Obama's average approval rating for the first quarter of his first year in office is the highest  of any president since 1969 other than Jimmy Carter, and Obama's most recent weekly average approval rating is higher  than the April approval ratings of every first-term president since 1969 other than Ronald Reagan.
Contrary to Holmes' claims that Obama "is the fourth least popular of the past give presidents" and that former President Bush "had higher Gallup approvals" than Obama at this point in their respective presidencies, Gallup reported  on April 17 that Obama's average approval rating of 63 percent during the first quarter of his first year as president was "the highest since Jimmy Carter's 69% in 1977." The Gallup write-up included the following chart:
Gallup also recently reported  that Obama's most recent weekly approval rating of 65 percent -- averaging Gallup's daily poll results from April 20-26 -- is higher than the April approval ratings (poll dates unspecified) of Bush and all presidents since 1969 other than Reagan. According to Gallup, Bush's weekly approval rating from April 2001 was 61 percent. Obama's previous weekly averages were 62 percent approval from March 30-April 5, 61 percent approval from April 6-12, and 62 percent approval from April 13-19. His daily Gallup approval rating  has fluctuated between 63 percent and 68 percent since April 26. From Gallup:
Barack Obama's Most Recent Weekly Approval Rating Average 65% (Apr 20-26, 2009)
Other Elected Presidents in April of First Term:
George W. Bush 61% (April 2001)
Bill Clinton 55% (April 1993)
George H.W. Bush 58% (April 1989)
Ronald Reagan 67% (April 1981)
Jimmy Carter 64% (April 1977)
Richard Nixon 62% (April 1969)
John Kennedy 81% (April 1961)
Dwight Eisenhower 74% (April 1953)
From the May 3 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
HOLMES: I was going to say, you know, with this coverage, one of the little-known facts -- The Washington Times reported this last week -- is that, actually, at this point in his presidency, Barack Obama is the fourth least popular of the past five presidents. You wouldn't know that from the press coverage.
And you wouldn't know that George Bush in -- you know, at this point in his presidency in 2001, after having had the recount, not even winning the popular vote, in fact had higher Gallup approvals than Barack Obama does right now.
So I do think --
KURTZ: Although his numbers, we have to say, are pretty good. Now, let me go to the press conference --
HOLMES: They're pretty good, but comparatively. You're asking comparatively how does the press treat these --
KURTZ: OK. Fair enough.
HOLMES: -- politicians differently, and they do.