Media Watch: The Sharyl Attkisson approach
Did you know that the reason Congress has such a low approval rating is because not only are Republicans and Independents not satisfied with them but …
… because Democrats are almost as unhappy with them, as well?
This shocking revelation comes courtesy of the left’s favorite selective quoter Glenn Greenwald, in an attempt to make Congressional approval ratings look like No Big Deal.
I haven’t had a chance to examine his stats closely this time around, but a friend and I at a political message board got into a debate about the hazards of citing Glenn Greenwald as a ‘factual source’ a month ago, and I dissected claims Greenwald made at that time about another poll on Congress.
Here was the initial claim my friend made, which Glenn Greenwald supposedly backed up:
My thinking had been that the major reason for the slump in Congressional approval was not that the Democrats were too strident in their opposition to Bush, but that they weren’t strident enough. Now Glenn Greenwald at his blog over at Salon has come up with some stats to back that up.
(Note to readers: Make sure to read that Salon link in full as it will give you a much more comprehensive idea of what GG was claiming)
When I responded on 7/14 that I would trust GG as far as I could throw him, the response was:
I’ve never read him or anything about him — I pretty stay away from the political blogs. But he links to the Rasmussen polls themselves, so I don’t really have to trust him.
Another claim made by that same friend:
As Greenwald points out, that 25-33% figure you see siding with Bush is the core of his support. A better indication of what’s really going on is if you look at the party breakdown of the approval figures. Two-thirds of Republicans still approve of Bush’s performance, while 49% of Democrats disapprove of Congress’ performance.
My response [which I've added a few things to for emphasis]:
This is what I’m talking about with Greenwald – there is no indication whatsoever in any poll number that he shows that the American people are dissatisfied with Congress because they ‘aren’t being confrontational enough’ with the President, except with respect to the fired attorneys scandal. Not only that, but Congress is not overwhelmingly Democrat – Congress includes a large number of Republicans, only slightly lower than Democrats, yet the poll numbers Greenwald cites are the numbers for only what Democrats think of this Congress, not Republicans. Here’s what he wrote (bolded/underlined emphasis added by me):
The gap between (a) the core beliefs of the right-wing movement and their media allies and (b) the vast majority of American citizens is one that is vast and growing, and it now extends to virtually every issue of political significance. In virtually every area, the defining beliefs of the “conservative” movement (which are frequently synonymous with the conventional wisdom of our Beltway media) are now confined to a small fringe of the American citizenry.
The most recent polling data on the country’s key political issues, including new data in the last week, conclusively demonstrates just how large the gap is between right-wing beliefs and the heart of the American public. Just compare the core views of “conservatives” to what the vast majority of Americans believe (in each case, the conservative view is bolded):
UPDATE: These specific issue findings also highlight one of the most misused and exploited facts waved around by our pundits — namely, that the approval ratings for Congress are as low as, if not lower than, the ratings for the President. That fact is used to imply that Bush’s unprecedented unpopularity is merely a symptom of unfocused discontent with politics generally and/or that the Democratic Congress is unpopular because it is perceived as being too extreme, overzealous and radical in its opposition to the President.
In fact, the Democratic Congress is stuck at this depth of unpopularity for one principal reason: namely, because (as the polling data above demonstrates) it has done too little to oppose the Bush administration, both on Iraq and in exercising its oversight responsibilities. The low approval ratings for the Congress are due to dissatisfaction among Democrats that Congress has been too passive, not due to dissatisfaction among independents and Republicans that it has been too aggressive.
Just review President Bush’s approval ratings by party breakdown from the latest CBS News poll:
“Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?”
Approve – 66%
Disapprove – 23%
Unsure – 11%
Even as unpopular as he is, three times more Republicans still approve of his performance as disapprove. Compare that with the approval ratings from Democrats with regard to the Democratic Congress, from the same poll:
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?
Approve – 37%
Disapprove – 49%
Unsure – 14%
Plainly, the reason the approval ratings for the Democratic Congress are so low is because the rank-and-file of their own party disapproves of the job they are doing, by an unusually wide margin. It is Democratic discontent, grounded in perceptions of excessive passivity, which is responsible for the low esteem in which the Congress is held.
That’s total BS as to be expected by Mr. Selective Quote. It’s not just Democratic discontent, but Republican and Independent discontent, too, as these numbers prove:
CBS News/New York Times. July 20-22, 2007. N=889 adults nationwide. MoE Â± 3 (for all adults). LV = likely voters. RV = registered voters.
“Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?”
Not only that, but there are around 15 to 20% of “unsures/no answers/time will tell” answers in some of those polls which could go either way. NOBODY is happy with Congress, for a lot of reasons. Democrats for them not being aggressive enough, Republicans for them being overly aggressive, and Independents somewhere in between.
Let’s also take a look at another poll he cited, in which he posted the following:
From the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll, July 6-8:
From what you have heard or read, do you think President Bush was right to commute Libby’s sentence, do you think he should have gone further and granted him a full pardon, or do you think he should not have intervened at all on Libby’s behalf?
Right to commute sentence – 13%
Should have granted full pardon – 6%
Should not have intervened at all – 66%
No opinion – 15%.
What did he not post? The number of people who either weren’t following the issue closely, or not following it at all. From that same poll:
4. How closely are you following the news about President Bush’s decision to commute the prison sentence of former vice presidential aide, Lewis “Scooter” Libby?
Very closely: 20%
Somewhat closely: 36%
Not too closely: 24%
Not at all: 19%
No opinion: 1%
Only half the respondents to that poll had been following “somewhat closely” or “very closely” the news about the President’s commuting Libby’s sentence. Nearly half had not followed it too closely or at all, which tells you that nearly half of the respondents were uninformed when they were answering. But let’s assume for laughs that everyone participating in the poll knew what they were talking about, as Greenwald assumed. Later in that same poll, respondents were asked whether or not Bush’s decision to commute Libby’s sentence had any affect on their opinion of Bush.
6. Has George W. Bush’s recent handling of the Libby matter caused you to gain confidence in Bush, has it not affected your opinion either way, or has it caused you to lose confidence in Bush?
Gain confidence: 9%
Not affected opinion: 71%
Lose confidence: 16%
No opinion : 3%
71% said this didn’t affect their opinion, but Greenwald would have you thinking based on what little bit he posted from the poll that this is yet another reason why the American people are dissatisfied with Congress, which is quite bizarre, considering that Congress has nothing to do with commuting anybody’s sentence in the first place. And assuming that they did, whatever they did wouldn’t have much of an effect on the opinions of the American people because, as noted above, even though they thought Bush should not have intervened, his doing so did not affect their opinions of him.
So once again we see Glenn Greenwald spinning and distorting poll numbers to fit his agenda. I guess I shouldn’t be too upset with him. After all, he is paid good money to mislead people who read Salon.com, so I guess we could say he’s just doing his job.
Hat tip for the link to Greenwald’s post on the most recent poll numbers to Brian at Liberty Pundit, who writes:
Ol’ Sock Puppet himself, Glenn Greenwald, says that the current Congress is unpopular because “Democrats disapprove of the Democratic Congress almost as much as Republicans do.” What piercing logic, eh? Must have taken him HOURS to come up with that oneâ€¦
I mean, when you’re at 18%, it’s pretty much a given that people on BOTH sides don’t like you.