President Obama's approval numbers, which have been gradually sliding over the past few months, reached a low of 47 percent in Gallup's national daily tracking poll yesterday. But according to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, the Obama administration isn't concerned about something so wildly erratic:
"I tell you, if I was a heart patient and Gallup was my EKG, I'd visit my doctor," Gibbs said. "If you look back, I think five days ago, there was an 11-point spread, now there's a 1-point spread. I mean, I'm sure a 6-year-old with a crayon could do something not unlike that. I don't put a lot of stake in, never have, in the EKG that is the daily Gallup trend."
He added: "I don't pay a lot of attention to the meaninglessness of it.
Not a lot of stake. Meaninglessness. 6-year-old with a crayon. This was, we thought, a harsh and unprovoked attack on the very integrity of the Gallup Organization. So, hoping to insert ourselves at the center of an escalating political war between the White House and the nation's oldest polling outfit, we called up Gallup's editor-in-chief, Frank Newport, to see exactly how much fiery umbrage Gibbs had aroused.
"I don’t think he was impugning the accuracy of the poll," Newport told us, calmly. Damn.
He continued: "I think he probably was saying that, like a lot of politicians, they don’t necessarily like to pay attention to polls, particularly when they’re more negative." Of course, just because the Gallup tracking poll tends to fluctuate doesn't mean it's not also representative of what's going on. "I think what we're showing is rather than meaningless movement ... it's an interesting pattern," Newport told us, noting that a lot is happening right now both domestically and internationally that could affect Obama's day-to-day poll numbers. "I think it’s quite valuable."
But is there a value for the White House in following it, which Gibbs, dubiously, denies they're doing? "I think all elected representatives should pay attention to polling," Newport, author of a book on that very premise, said. "After all, we elect these people and send them off to represent us — presidents, senators, congresspeople — and I think it’s quite important that they stay in touch with their constituents," and "scientific polling is the best method we have for our representatives to stay in touch." Would a 6-year-old say that, Gibbs? Huh? That would be some 6-year-old.