AP reporter lives in Wingnut World

An April 15, 2010 front-page headline in the local Gannett newspaper, the Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times, caught my eye: “Obama, other Democrats battered in poll.” The story was by Associated Press reporter Liz Sidoti, who is so biased by her inside-the-beltway mentality that she apparently doesn’t understand the difference between “what people are saying” and “what is demonstrably, empirically true” (i.e., facts).

The story begins

“WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s national standing has slipped to a new low after his victory on the historic health care overhaul, even in the face of growing signs of economic revival, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll.

“The survey shows the political terrain growing rockier for Obama and congressional Democrats heading into midterm elections, boosting Republican hopes for a return to power this fall.

“Just 49 percent of people now approve of the job Obama’s doing overall, and less than that — 44 percent — like the way he’s handled health care and the economy. Last September, Obama hit a low of 50 percent in job approval before ticking a bit higher. His high-water mark as president was 67 percent in February of last year, just after he took office.”

Statement 1: “Obama’s national standing has slipped to a new low. . .”
Statement 2: “Just 49 percent of people now approve of the job Obama’s doing . . .
Statement 3: “Last September, Obama hit a low of 50 percent in job approval. . .”

According to Liz, the president’s approval rating has utterly collapsed, dropping AN ENTIRE PERCENTAGE POINT in less than six months. Battered. Just battered. Poor Obama must not know what hit him.

Sidoti marches on

“The news is worse for other Democrats. For the first time this year, about as many Americans approve of congressional Republicans as Democrats — 38 percent to 41 percent — and neither has an edge when it comes to the party voters want controlling Congress. Democrats also have lost their advantage on the economy; people now trust both parties equally on that, another first in 2010.

“Roughly half want to fire their own congressman. Adding to Democratic woes, people have grown increasingly opposed to the health care overhaul in the weeks since it became law; 50 percent now oppose it, the most negative measure all year.”

Statistic 1: Congressional Democrats – 41 percent approval
Statistic 2: Congressional Republicans – 38 percent approval

Wow. The Democrats are being battered, too. They’re losing . . . well, falling behind . . . okay, not quite as far ahead as they were a few months ago . . . Um, they’re STILL BEATING THE REPUBLICANS. HELLLLLOOOOO?

And Liz doesn’t even bother to mention the distressing news that, in the half-dozen special elections to the House of Representatives since Obama was elected, Democrats have lost ALL BUT SIX. That means they have beaten Republicans in House races only 100 percent of the time since November, 2009. In the world according to Liz, they better hang it up!

I go to the source.

After reading the four-paragraph version of this article in the C-T, I decided to find the original on the AP website. What did I find?

Well, the AP at least had a more reasonable headline: “Obama, Democrats slip in poll.” A little, teeny, tiny, minute bit more precise way of describing a one-percentage-point drop than “battered.”

But the rest of the story includes details of the AP’s polling, which stood out in light of a simultaneously released in-depth, nationwide New York Times/CBS News poll showing that a grand total of 18 percent of Americans identify themselves as tea party supporters.

Liz Sidoti writes:

“One third [33 percent] of those surveyed consider themselves tea party supporters, and three-quarters of those people are overwhelmingly Republicans or right-leaning independents.

“The tea party coalition remains fuzzy to most people; only 16 percent say they know a great deal or a lot about this political phenomenon born a year ago.”

Liz’s world: 33 percent. . . consider themselves tea party supporters
Real world: 18 percent. . . identify themselves as tea party supporters
Liz’s world: 24 percent. . . are right-leaning Independents or Republicans (3/4 of 33 percent)
Real world: 84 percent admit they don’t know very much about what they support or oppose

So…the AP skewed its sample by polling an 83-percent-higher proportion of tea party supporters than there are in the voting population. That means that their approval-disapproval rating is also skewed. Thus Obama’s 49 percent approval is more likely 59 percent; the 41 percent for Democrats is closer to 49 percent; and the 38 percent for Republicans is a losing 46 percent.

Naturally, Liz concludes that this small group of ignorant tea-party Republicans—the loudest, angriest, best-armed, and best-publicized bunch out there—are the most powerful force in the electorate, far more impressive than the 64 million voters who elected Barack Obama 15 months ago.

Outside the beltway and the Fox media echo chamber, real people notice that the huge, massive national protest against gun control drew. . .75 people. Outside the beltway, people don’t think their liberties have been stolen away by an illegitimate Kenyan-born Muslim usurper. Outside the beltway, citizens cannot believe that the Republicans unanimously oppose new, stricter regulations on Wall Street. Outside the beltway, people are crossing their fingers in the hope that they will find a new job and keep current with their car payments, mortgages, kids’ braces, and other expenses. Outside the beltway, the tea party phenomenon is a small, very smelly pile of crap.

But for Liz Sidoti and the Associated Press (now under the presidency of a former Bush political operative), the world of wingnuts is reality.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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