The Imaginary Drop in Obama’s Support

Mark Halperin has made a career of taking right wing talking points and getting the media to repeat them as fact. You would think that others in the media would have caught on to his tactics by now. Steven Leser points out that Halperin has gotten away with this once again.

Yesterday Halperin picked up on a right wing talking point which was making the rounds of conservative blogs the last couple of days with a misleading post which said, “USA Today/Gallup poll shows 64% approve of the job the president is doing so far in office, down from a pre-Inauguration high of 83%.”  Leser writes that Chris Matthews and Anderson Cooper repeated this on their Friday shows. He also pointed out what was wrong with this claim:

What’s the problem? It combines information from two different polls that ask different questions and reaches an unsupported and erroneous conclusion.

The first poll deals with Obama’s transition. Gallup asked people “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his presidential transition?” the final metric for this was that 83% of the country approved of then President-elect Obama’s transition efforts.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the question “How do you think President Barack Obama is doing his job?” is not the same question as “How is President-Elect Barack Obama handling his transition?”

The error gets even worse, because Halperin’s suggestion of a drop from 83% to 64% doesn’t even rely on unrelated polls from the same polling agency.

Conservatives would like to think there has been such a rapid drop in support for Obama, but the facts do not support this. Journalists should know better than to accept claims from Halperin without fact checking as taking something from Halperin is essentially the same as taking claims from Matt Drudge or the conservative blogosphere.

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