By Robert Wallace
Americans who believe that Obama’s progressive agenda is a danger to our Constitutional traditions and institutions have been encouraged by the Rasmussen Presidential Approval Index. The PAI is computed very simply — take the number of people who “Strongly Approve” of Obama and subtract the number of people who “Strongly Disapprove” and you get the index. If more people strongly approve, the index is positive. If more people strongly disapprove, the index is negative. As mentioned here at America’s Right this morning, the Index reached zero on June 28th and has continued a steady downward plunge since then.
As of today, it stands at -8.
Rasmussen’s method is a bit unusual. Most polls report just approval and disapproval rather than breaking it down into different degrees of approval and disapproval. Rasmussen provides these numbers as well. Today’s Daily Presidential Tracking Poll reveals the overall approval rating from Rasmussen is 51% and the overall disapproval rating stands at 48%.
Another incredibly useful site is Pollster.com. There, you can compare the results from numerous different polls about Obama’s approval rating. Here’s what today’s graph of various approval polls looks like:
Ryan Best–a friend who reads my Facebook page–pointed out that, when he checked Rasmussen against the other polls, he noticed that Rasmussen stuck out. The approval rating didn’t seem that unusual, but the Rasmussen disapproval rating was much, much higher than the other polls. Since polls always have margins of error, you expect to see results from different polls to be similar to one another but not identical. Without doing any rigorous testing, I could chalk the difference in the approval up to that kind of random fluctuation. But not the disapproval numbers. Rasmussen disapproval numbers are substantially higher than other polls, and the discrepancy is consistent. Clearly there’s something going on.
Pollster.com also includes the ability to apply a few filters to the data. I didn’t have the time to mess with them today, but Ryan did. Ryan found that Rasmussen and three other polls are collected using robo-calls. Most of the other polls (about 10 of them) are collected using live interviews on the phone. Here are the results I followed up on Ryan’s research:
So there’s a 5-point spread in the approval ratings between robo calls and live calls, but there’s whopping 11.3-point spread between the disapproval ratings for robo calls and live calls. For example:
It also means (if you assume the higher disapproval rate is correct) that about one quarter of Americans who disapprove of Obama don’t want to tell a live pollster that they disapprove of Obama. In short: they lie.
The entire Obama campaign has been founded on an empty façade, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that his popularity is also based on a myth. It’s also not surprising that people are lying about their approval for Obama. That’s human nature. Obama is the “in” thing. He’s a celebrity. All the kids are doing it. That could explain why people tend to respond more favorably about Obama when asked by another person, but there’s a much more powerful explanation for why they lie about their disapproval.
I can remember in high school when we were marched off to a Black History Month assembly I muttered something like: “When do we get an Irish History Month?” I spent the entire assembly enduring a couple of classmates–all white–whispering stuff from the chairs behind me along the lines of: “Where’s your white robe and hat?” Clearly if I was grumpy about a mandatory assembly for black heritage but no other heritages, the only explanation could be that I was a closet Klu Klux Klan member. It’s like I went to school with a bunch of white Al Sharptons, minus the pinstripes, pocket square and the bouffant hair-do.
How easy do you think it was to speak negatively of black history month after that?
The next year–as a sophomore–we had a substitute teacher in our English class. We broke into groups with an assignment to discuss whether a given historical figure was a great leader or not. My group had John F. Kennedy. I pointed out his numerous affairs and the Bay of Pigs fiasco and argued that he was not a great leader. The substitute teacher–who was black–sat down, cut off every other student in the group, and proceeded to lecture me about how much Kennedy had down for civil rights. I refused to back down, and when I got home from school that day I was met by my tearful mother who had been called by school administrators and informed that the teacher was attempting to have me thrown out of the school. (I attended a public magnet school, and so they could potentially kick me back into the normal high school.)
In the end, the administration decided not to attempt to give me the boot — but how easy do you think it was for me to speak my mind about anything related to race after that?
I was a senior in high school during the infamous David Howard incident. Howard, who is white, was an aide to Washington, D.C. mayor Anthony Williams, who is black. During a budget meeting, Howard used the word “niggardly” in reference to the budget. One of Williams’ associates–also black–didn’t know what the word meant. He assumed it had some kind of racial connotation, and he complained to Williams. Despite that the word “niggardly” has nothing to do with race, Howard was forced to resign.
Once again, I got the message loud and clear.
Don’t complain about affirmative action style policies, or you will be branded a racist. Don’t say anything negative about anyone who has anything to do with civil rights or you will be branded a racist. Don’t even say anything completely unrelated to race that can be ignorantly misperceived as racist or you will be branded a racist. Just this past weekend, for example, New York congressman Peter King complained about the coverage Michael Jackson’s death was receiving in the media and compared it with the lack of coverage of the death of American servicemen and servicewomen abroad — and was labeled a racist by Al Sharpton. (The real Al Sharpton.)
This is the world that suburban Americans grow up in. We are caught between constant cries for “dialogue on race” and the cold, simple truth that if we actually open our mouths we are likely to be maligned, fired, sued, or worse.
The 2008 election was billed as a referendum on race. Americans know how to react to a referendum on race. We have been trained. We shut up, go along, and don’t rock the boat. It should not be surprising, given that training, that folks are inclined to lie about their approval for Obama to a live interviewer. I wonder if they even realize they are doing it.
Aside from the discussion of race in American politics, Ryan’s discovery has huge implications for Obama’s political future. As Ryan put it:
Saying “I don’t like Obama” is unpopular right now, so that may skew those [live interview] results. Once that’s less of a faux pas to say in polite company the voice polls will probably get closer to the automated polls.
I think Ryan is absolutely right. For the time being, the Rasmussen poll stands out as an anomaly, and so it is easy to downplay. But as long as Matt Drudge keeps splashing it across his headline and readers keep sharing it with friends and family, the myth of Obama’s political capital is going to erode. Once Americans realize how many other people disapprove of Obama but are afraid to say so, they will likely stop perpetuating the myth. We’ll see the rest of the polls start to descend to the level of the Rasmussen polls and quite possibly keep on going down.
I don’t think this is just a possibility. It’s inevitable. The problem isn’t whether or not Obama falls, but how much damage he can inflict before the fall and how much societal damage may be incurred when he does fall. It is very unfortunate for America that his presidency is about race. Race has nothing to do with Obama’s unpopularity. Instead, it’s his dangerous and un-American progressive policies. But if liberal Americans are pushed into a defensive stance, they will invariably decide to play the race card to try and stem a surging tide of disapproval. The resulting fallout will be toxic to American society and only serve to further radicalize an already fractured public.
Robert Wallace has an academic background in mathematics and systems engineering. He has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.