Yesterday the Fox News website ran with a new poll on President Obama as its lead story. According to Fox News, the poll shows that President Obama is in “trouble at the starting gate” in the 2012 election. To support their conclusion, Fox News aruges that 54% of voters said they would vote for “someone else” in 2012, and “only” 39% of voters say they will vote for President Obama in 2012. However, like most Fox News stories this one is full of distortion, ignorance, and deception.
First there is the fact that the 2012 elections are more than two years away. Most Americans would not commit to anything two years from now, near less their vote for president. As my loyal readers can attest to, I tend to have a more favorable view of the President and his policies (with some notable exceptions). Having said that, I do not know if I will “definitely” vote for President Obama in 2012. Voters like myself probably will vote for Obama, but if he decides to do something insane like punch a small child the Presdent will surely lose our votes. The point is voters are fickled. Predicting what they will do tomorrow has proven to be an inexact science. Predicting what voters will do two years from now is like trying to predict the weather two years from now. In addition, voters are very reluctant to commit themselves to any kind of vote for one person so far in the future.
Secondly, Fox News once more frames the question in a way that leads to the narrative they want to portray. Fox News asks voters whether they would vote for President Obama or “someone else.” In today’s anti-incumbent mood, a poll which asks voters about any known politican against “someone else” is sure to lead to a negative result for the named individual. When voters go to the polls in November of 2012 they will not vote for President Obama or “someone else.” They will vote for President Obama or the Republican nominee. Once the “someone else” is give a name, and identified as a Republican it will greatly reduce their poll numbers. When Democrats and President Obama have a chance to run ads against “someone else” this will also bring the poll numbers down. “Someone else” tends to poll well in a distorted way.
Finally, at the end of the story Fox news buries what may be the most important data from the poll. When Fox News polled the President against actual people, who are considered the leading Republican contenders, the President beat every single hypothetical opponent. This data helps to prove my two points above, but Fox News strangely decides to put it at the very bottom of their story. As mentioned above, only 39% of voters say they will vote against President Obama compared to “someone else.” But when voters were asked whether they would vote for President Obama or Sarah Palin, 47% said they would vote for Obama and only 35% said they would vote for Palin. What this practically means is that 8% of the American public lied, because when given the opportunity to vote for “someone else” in the name of Sarah Palin a higher percentage said they would vote for the President.
The Fox News poll seems to reflect upon a general sentiment of Republicans and conservatives that the President is all-but-doomed in 2012, and all Republicans must do is produce a warm body to beat him. Democrats had the same sort of attitude in late 2003, when they believed President Bush to be a lost cause for re-election. In fact, President Bush won re-election and the 2004 presidential election demonstrated what has become a familiar pattern in presidential elections. Voters express disapproval of the incumbent president, and even say they are willing to vote for “someone else.” However, when voters are actually given the chance to vote for a John Kerry or a Bob Dole, they instead go back to the incumbent they say they hated so much. Voters often chose the evil they know over the evil they do not known, particular with someone as powerful as the President of the United States. Fox News ignores this important truth, possibly in pursuit of their agenda which has been made clear over the past decade.