Rating Obama – Who do you want to believe?


If you were watching ABC the other night, you may have seen Charlie Gibson smugly announcing the results of an ABC poll which showed 68% of Americans approved Obama's job performance to date. He was obviously very pleased by this. That didn't agree with my personal observations, so I thought I would do some research to see what this was all about.

The ABC News/Washington Post poll he referred to was conducted by TNS of Horsham, PA, by telephone Feb. 19-22, 2009, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults including both landline and cell phone-only respondents. No information was provided on the questions asked and how they were asked. These 1001 adults are then paraded as "America" by ABC.  Par for the course with ABC.

On the other hand, Fox News did a poll that showed that 60 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president, down from 65 percent three weeks ago (27-28 January 2009). Similarly, the portion of people that disapproves has increased to 26 percent, up from 16 percent.

A Gallup Poll reports that for the first time since Gallup began tracking Barack Obama's presidential job approval rating on Jan. 21, fewer than 60% of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president. February 24, 2009

These are results of polls where an organization contacts a supposedly random sample of people and hopefully asks them emotionally neutral questions in an effort to get unbiased answers.

What we don't know is whether these respondents are carefully selected to provide poll results that match the pollsters expectations. Furthermore, we don't know how much skin these respondents have in the game. At the very best, all we get is opinion and that is worth only as much as you agree with it.


At the other end of the spectrum are the people who have their own money on the line. They vote every day with their money, putting it where they have confidence that it will cause them to prosper and removing it from situations that are risky.

People often say a lot of things they really think are true, but when it comes time to put their own money on the line their true feelings show through. Look at the following graph from AP and see for yourself how the actions of Obama and his administration are affecting investor confidence. Almost every company in which you own stock is following this trend.


Talk is cheap, so they say. Actions involving our money are probably a better indicator of our feelings about the future. I think the pork-filled stimulus package will be viewed as a major depressant to American businesses which create real jobs. The majority of jobs that I see being created are government jobs of one sort or other.

Investors Business Daily puts forth their take on it. "It looks like the U.S., which built the mightiest, most prosperous economy the world has ever known, is about to turn its back on the free-enterprise system that made it all possible."

Among the examples they give is this:

• Newsweek, a prominent national newsweekly, blares from its cover "We Are All Socialists Now," without a hint of recognition that socialism in its various forms has been repudiated by history — as communism's collapse in the USSR, Eastern Europe and China attest.

We are going to have a chance it seems to see if our values and ideas are up to the test. We all have a part in this going forward.

If you think that Obama is leading us in the right direction, you need to give him your full support.

On the other hand, if your experience leads you to believe that he and his administration is on a collision course with disaster, you need to support those who are working for saner safer solutions.

Sitting on the sidelines will not get us out of this current debacle. Constructive actions based on accurate data will pull us through.

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0 Responses to Rating Obama – Who do you want to believe?

  1. Gary Boyd says:

    David, we now have a President whose approval is not in the 20’s. We have a minority party pushing the same agenda that got us to where we are today.

    I would really be interested in hearing what the saner solutions you seem to be hearing of are because what I am hearing leaves me feeling more than a little happy with the leadership we now have…Just asking…

    And if you want to post a real representative chart of the stock market, back it up another year. Then the dip you are looking at since the election just gets lost in the scale of the overall downturn…Just like the majority of the 401K’s in America.

    I hope you are feeling better.

  2. Hi Gary,
    I am feeling much better. Thanks.

    Approval ratings are an indication of how a person is perceived. The MSM has been working hard on swaying public opinion for many years instead of reporting news. Even so, I think that Obama has done a much better job of generating favorable publicity than Bush did. I don’t feel it has translated into effective results yet.

    Your point about the agenda that got us where we are today is blurred by the number of Bush Administration decisions that are now proudly claimed as Obama decisions.

    As for the leadership we have today, if you are happy with Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, you are more far more hopeful and trusting than I am.

    As for saner solutions, that is certainly a judgmental remark on my part. I will substitute safer solutions as that was my original intent. Using “safer” in the sense of not following the EU on the path of Socialism.

  3. Jim White says:

    Approval ratings aside, I’m glad that we have a leader who is embracing/facing the challenges he inherited head on. Admittedly, I haven’t the foggiest what you’re referring to when you claim that a “number of Bush Administration decisions that are now proudly claimed as Obama decisions,” seems I recall Bush denying we were even in a recession until AFTER the election had taken place?? Why not call a spade a spade, Bush was the goofiest president I’ve seen in my life time, bar none.

    I’d like to point out that when I was in business school they spent a lot of time describing how stock markets work and what drives behavior in these markets. I learned 2 things that stick with me and my experiences have proven them to be true. First, if you want to make money in the stock market you buy low and sell high. The other is that there is only one thing in the universe that you can accurately gauge by using market behavior, and that’s market behavior. I think it’s accurate to say that emotion, and not logic, cause the lion’s share of the fluctuations.

    It’s more accurate to say that what we are seeing the continuation of a trend that has been in play for over a year than something that indicates the success or failure of Obama’s recent activities. I’m of the opinion that he could start laying golden eggs tomorrow and it will still take the markets years (not months) to get back on stable footing.

  4. Dave Opton says:

    There are four things I was told never to get into an argument about: Religion, Politics,Compensation and who was better Mays or Joe D.

    Economists, historians and about any other flavor you want to name have debated what works and what doesn’t ever since people started to trade beads.

    The larger the organization (and I think that includes nations) it isn’t so much about policies as it is about those who lead and the degree to which the rest of us will follow.

    The fact of the matter is that most of us in leadership positions don’t really know beforehand if something will work or not, we just have a belief.

    What we do know, however, is that unless and until we can get those who we lead committed to the goal it will surely fail no matter what our belief.

  5. Jack Russell says:

    Hiya David,

    Glad to hear you are feeling better and looking forward to seeing ya’ll this weekend.

    I really have no way of knowing if 1000 respondents to the ABC poll is either a significant or representative sampling. Your comments following that ABC poll do imply that you think not.

    If the Fox poll you cited was intended to represent a more reliable resource, I took a look at its sampling detail and found this:

    “Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from February 17 to February 18. The poll has a 3-point error margin.”

    The Gallup poll showed this:

    “Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,553 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 21-23, 2009, as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

    Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

    In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.”

    Based on those details, it doesn’t seem to me that the ABC effort was significantly different from the others.

    You are spot on to state that in real life, folks vote every day with their invested dollars. The AP chart you included accurately portrays the real life of the SP500 over the last 5-6 months. But beyond that, I believe that AP also may have supported your earlier point that:

    “At the very best, all we get is opinion and that is worth only as much as you agree with it.”

    The label for when Obama pulled ahead of McCain could just as easily been “Mortgage market implodes. Lehman collapses!” Those events were, afterall, coincident. So, depending upon one’s opinion, that plunge in the markets could have been caused by fear of Obama or a vote of no confidence on deregulation and bank bailouts. I’m sure anyone of any particular economic or political persuasion could label that graph to portray their desired opinion as fact.

    Probably the best President Obama can do is try to make chicken salad out of the chicken……….
    er, litter that he inherited. I hope he can do it and that we all can refrain from indicting him only a month into his tenure.

  6. On the matter of polls, I do not quarrel with the results achieved, even though there was a 13% difference between the highest and lowest opinion polls.

    It is the presentation of these poll results as xx% of “Americans’ approve of Obama that I feel is unwarranted.

    If they merely stated that a certain percent of 1000 Americans polled felt a particular way, that would make perfect sense. One could evaluate that against the fact that there were 226.2 million people over the age of 18 as of 2006.

    One of the polls I did not mention was the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index™, which had decreased moderately in January, declined in February, reaching yet another all-time low. The Index now stands at 25.0, down from 37.4 in January.(1985=100)

    The Consumer Confidence Survey™ is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households. The cutoff date for February’s preliminary results was February 18th.

  7. Jack Russell says:


    I did some further exploration to find some information about just how polls are conducted. You raised very valid questions about sampling, questions, and presentation of results as representative of a much larger population. I found the following paper that addressed conduct of polling at Gallup:


    I don’t know if the authors of the underlying work are or were employees of Gallup nor can I rule out that the paper is only a “puff piece” for the organization. But I did find that many of the issues your raised such as statistical representation, design of questions, and interpretation of the data, were covered, under specific headings.

    Ultimately, its up to the end reader to judge the results presented by any given poll. We readers, too, may filter the various poll outcomes based upon our own biases by seeking out results that only mirror our own opinions.

    You said it right. We only get opinions from polls, and those are worth only as much as we might agree with the results.

  8. GBGames says:

    I am sure you’ve seen this by now: http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/03/nasdaq-now-up-under-obama-presidency.html

    And in light of the graph you showed, I wondered if you would write a follow-up article about confidence in the administration. B-)

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