Ex-Minnesota Poll reporter says Minnesota Poll story needs more context

Dane Smith, once the Strib’s top political reporter and now head of the progressive economic think tank Growth & Justice, wants to add context to Sunday’s Minnesota Poll story showing President Obama’s support fell from 62 percent to 51 percent.

On G&J’s blog, Smith writes:

A drop in 10 (sic) percentage points on job approval, after the “honeymoon” and late in a president’s first year, is typical, but especially if he’s mounting the most sweeping social and economic reforms in decades during the most serious recession in a century.

The bailouts and continuing war in the Middle East has angered the left, the expansion of a public role in health-care has infuriated the right, everybody’s still worried about their finances, and still the president’s approval rating is about 20 points higher than his predecessor’s.

Reporter Kevin Diaz’s poll story didn’t mention other presidents (MPR’s Bob Collins does), nor lefties’ dissatisfaction — though only 6 percent of self-identified Democrats object to Obama’s job performance.

It’s possible that lefty non-Dems are among independents; Diaz noted a 17 percent decline in Obama approval among 18- to 34-year-olds, “one of his best demographics in the election.”

Side note: The Strib has not published detailed crosstabs that would help readers do their own digging, including a look at whether the 18-34-year-old cohort is so small the margin of sampling error renders it unreliable. I have an email in to poll editor Dennis McGrath about the overall partisan mix. Last time we talked, I vaguely remember something about not publishing full results until the entire poll series ran. (Monday’s poll story was on the economy.)

Smith then bores in on the health care polling results; Diaz wrote that “a slim majority support Obama’s calls for a new government health insurance plan and a law requiring all Americans to have health insurance.” Notes Smith:

The concerns about health-care transformation are undoubtedly an overriding factor but it appears that the dissatisfaction with Obama’s plan comes from many liberal folks who wish he’d gone further.

Although Minnesotans disapprove of his overall “handling” of health care (45 percent to 39 percent), there is clear approval of the “public option” despised by the right-wing critics (51 percent to 37 percent). Most clearly approve a law requiring coverage (54 percent to 37 percent) and a slight plurality (43 percent to 40 percent) actually favor the overall changes being supported by Obama and his congressional allies.

Most important, perhaps, the poll showed that about 40 percent of Minnesotans are either worried about losing coverage or are currently uninsured.

Now, you can take your pick: Smith’s “clear approval” versus Diaz’s “slim majority.” Diaz’s is accurate, Smith’s adds value.

I have no issue with the Strib’s headline that Obama’s 11-point approval drop represents a “sharp” decline. But I agree with Smith that a 14-point approval gap for a government health plan that would compete with private insurance plans deserved more of an underline. So, for that matter, did the fact that after a summer of town hall pounding, barely more than a third of Minnesotans hate the idea.

Republicans and independents — but not Democrats — peeled away in large numbers when the questions moved from benefits to Obama’s handling of the issue. Again, if Smith is right that lefties are pissed things didn’t go far enough, you’d expect to see a similar falloff among Dems.

It’s true that Democrat opposition is measurable — between 12 and 17 percent depending on the question — and if that number dropped, the President and his principles would’ve fared better. And again, we don’t know how many lefties aren’t Democrats. Still, it doesn’t seem like their dissatisfaction is playing a huge role here.

It’s always easy to do survey design after the fact, but I might’ve included a question about reform’s perceived costs, which might help explain independents’ switch from public option approval to overall plan opposition. The Congressional Budget Office says Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus’ bill would not raise the federal deficit; the effect on private insurance plans is mixed.

With the conflict-of-interest note that Growth & Justice was founded by Joel Kramer, who’s the boss of this site, Smith’s coda is worth including:

We’ve often made the case that there is a sustained majority in Minnesota who favor the moderate-to-progressive position on key issues.  These key issues include support for public education, transportation, public health-care, environmental protection and most of the worthwhile vital investments that our governments provide. This majority also favors  a fairer and reasonably larger tax burden on those at the top of the income scale,  and opposition to the inflexible “no new taxes” orthodoxy.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/28/2009 - 03:01 pm.

    “Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that 30% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-nine percent (39%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -9”

    “Overall, 49% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance. Fifty-one (51%) disapprove.”


    “Just 41% of voters nationwide now favor the health care reform proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. That’s down two points from a week ago and the lowest level of support yet measured.

    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% are opposed to the plan.”


    “With the conflict-of-interest note that Growth & Justice was founded by Joel Kramer, who’s the boss of this site, Smith’s coda is worth including..”

    HA! That is pure GOLD!

  2. Submitted by Joe Johnson on 09/28/2009 - 03:11 pm.

    What is the ratio of liberal ex-strib employees that work for political motivated not-for-profit’s?

  3. Submitted by John Edwards on 09/29/2009 - 11:58 am.

    Sometimes I just have to smile. Just months ago Dane Smith and Joel Kramer were providing “objective” reporting at the Star Tribune. Now they have influential positions at two far left web sites. It would be fascinating to learn of the Road to Damascus moment that simultaneously transformed a hard-nosed, unbiased reporter and a harder-nosed editor into staunch political liberals.

  4. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/29/2009 - 02:42 pm.

    I’d guess the decline among 18- to 34-year-olds results from disappointment among left learning, anti-war, anti-excess corporate power, et cetera, idealistic young people as they observe the president’s refusal to consider single payer health care and other positions most would call Blue Dog.

    He has done, and is doing, many good things, but another disappointment may be our refusal to support President Zelaya instead of the coup-making 10 Families’ potential loss of both position and power as democracy takes hold. Not to mention our lack of support for Acorn when falsely accused.

    And yet another is our threatening attitude toward Iran when the IAEA, Scott Ritter and others all believe that Iran IS meeting all Non-proliferation treaty requirements.

Leave a Reply