I wasn’t planning to post anything about ebola today, but some new polling data strongly indicates how misleading — and self-serving — the conventional wisdom pushed by the Mainstream Media can be.
As you know if you follow me on Twitter (hint! @AlanTonelson!), I report each day on the data put out by the Gallup poll every day tracking President Obama’s popularity. Such very short-term fluctuations don’t matter much, but monitoring them this closely can sensitize you to important developments. Today’s numbers prompted me to examine how the president’s job approval ratings have changed since concerns about ebola broke out in earnest. And here’s the stunning answer: Not much!
On September 29, according to Gallup, the day before the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that a patient diagnosed with ebola was in America (the late Thomas Eric Duncan), Mr. Obama’s job approval stood at 43 percent. (This number is actually the three-day rolling average between September 27 and September 29.) His disapproval stood at 52 percent.
The latest figures (for October 25-27)? The president’s job approval is 42 percent, and those disapproving represented 53 percent of the sample. In other words, virtually no net change.
The numbers moved somewhat against Mr. Obama earlier this month. His worst three-day period was October 8-10. Perhaps not coincidentally, Duncan died on the eighth. But the Obama approval rating fell only to 39 percent, and the disapproval rating rose to 57 percent. That latter number set a new record for this gauge during Mr. Obama’s presidency, but only by one percentage point. The approval number was one point above the all-time low.
So it may be that the government’s handling of the ebola threat has greatly worsened Americans’ confidence in Washington (although as recent Gallup and CNN readings show, they’re still pretty confident in the feds’ ability to handle the disease itself). It’s also noteworthy that the number of ebola-related ads run by national political candidates this election year have jumped significantly. But even though many observers believe that the vote will be in large measure a referendum on the president’s policies, Mr. Obama’s reputation for confidence has barely been affected.
At the same time, more than three quarters of those surveyed for National Public Radio about a week ago support an ebola travel ban.
So it seems clear that, despite the claims of many on the Right, the nation still believes its government can protect them from this clearly serious threat. And despite the claims of many on the Left, it seems equally obvious that strong popular backing for a travel ban does not spring from outright and unreasoning ebola panic. The public’s apparent focus? An eminently sensible demand that their leaders err on the side of caution to protection health – and lives. Now if only some of this prudence and pragmatism could find its way into the various wings of the chattering class.’