Back in May, I wrote this post about why polls don't matter. The long and the short of it is that polls are only as good as the samples used.
This is a timely reminder because the WaPo is pretending the President's poll numbers are lower than they are...again.
President Bush is a competitive guy. But this is one contest he would rather lose. With 18 months left in office, he is in the running for most unpopular president in the history of modern polling.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News survey shows that 65 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance, matching his all-time low.
In polls conducted by The Post or Gallup going back to 1938, only twice has a president exceeded that level of public animosity -- Harry S. Truman, who hit 67 percent during the Korean War, and Richard M. Nixon, who hit 66 percent four days before resigning.
We could file this under media bias--comparing President Bush, whom Democrats screech about impeaching, to President Nixon, who resigned to avoid impeachment. But that's only part of the story. The devil is, as they say, in the details, only the details didn't get mentioned in this story.
What are the details? Namely, who was polled and with which party do they affiliated?
But Captain Ed noticed the sampling problems.
After a few years of relative equality, Democrats have pulled ahead of Republicans in party affiliation, as NBC noted in February. Nationally, Democrats enjoy a 34.3%-30.4% advantage in registrants. This has caused some analysts to predict that the GOP will have a tougher time in the Electoral College than in the last two elections, which was the general point of the article.
Now let's look at the Washington Post sample. On question 901, respondents answered that they were 35% Democrats, which is close enough to the national average. However, only 23% identified themselves as Republicans, which amounts to a 24% underrepresentation of the GOP in this sample. In fact, the Post consistently underrepresents Republicans, and has for the past two years. The last time it came close to reality was in November 2006 -- when the Post needed to make sure its election predictions came close to the results.
Not surprisingly, that was also the last time the Post's polling on George Bush's approval ratings came close to reality, too. His disapproval then was 57%, which the elections seem to have confirmed. At the time, Rasmussen -- which has been historically more accurate than the Post -- had it at 56%. They now have it at 59%, actually down from a high of 65% in the first part of July during the immigration debate.
None of this means President Bush is particularly popular. There are lots of people upset with him for lots of different reasons. But not quite as many people are upset with him as the Washington Post would have you believe.