PR = Poll Rigamarole
Can you stand one more round of: "this poll is B.S.?"
Either way, here goes. My parents called last night sick to death that only 13% of Americans blame Bush. "What's wrong with this country?" they pleaded, "when the man sat on his hands for days -- DAYS! -- while people were dying?"
So here's a couple quick notes on that Gallup/CNN/USA Today Poll they were referring to.
We all know that Gallup's CEO is an active Republican and their bias is well-documented. Their pre-election 2004 polls were consistently outliers, prompting a flurry of poll watchers -- this one included -- to look at the methodology. Sure enough, Gallup polls disproportionately sampled Republicans -- and they did so without presenting their results accordingly.
So here we are a year later and as the president wades through a briar patch of unprecedented media tenacity, tanking approval ratings, sharp public criticism and lousy poll numbers on his handling of Katrina, this one little gem appears and gets picked up by conservative talking pointers everywhere.
"Only 13% of Americans blame Bush! It says so right here..."
Sort of. Nobody, and I mean nobody, reprints the question. They just say that only 13% of Americans blame Bush. But here's the question in its entirety (emphasis is Gallup's).
"Who do you think is MOST responsible for the problems in New Orleans after the hurricane: George W. Bush, federal agencies, or state and local officials -- or is no one really to blame?"
You'd have to a. believe that "blame" is the acceptable nomenclature (which many are reluctant to believe out of respect in the wake of a tragedy; even more so when it comes to the president of the United States); b. believe that Bush was the number one person to blame; c. not get taken in by the feel-good emergency exit offered at the end of the question and d. be able to wade through turgid and annoying language.
So why "blame" when every other polling organization asked whether people "approved" or "disapproved"? THAT is the question. And to that question, although it hews quite closely to party lines, was that no, his response was not adequate. Some of the other polls (and recall that populations typically rally around presidents during a crisis. Bush's approvals shot up to 90% after 9/11):
CBS News: "Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush has handled the response to Hurricane Katrina?"
Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey: "Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast?"
Zogby America Poll: "Please rate President Bush's handling of each as excellent, good, fair, or poor. Hurricane Katrina."
ABC News/Washington Post Poll: "Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation caused by Hurricane Katrina?"