Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sure, Everyone Loves The Fellow

There is the conventional belief, voiced here by Reid Wilson of the National Journal, who wrote in August

Polling consistently shows that the majority of Americans view Obama favorably, even while they increasingly disagree with his job performance. There is a nuance to voter sentiment, pollsters say, one that provides Obama with a path to reelection. But the disconnect between the two numbers, if it ever shrinks, could also become a leading indicator that the president's chances for a second term are headed south.

"I consistently find in focus groups that swing voters like Obama personally. But they feel let down by his policies. They believe he is working hard, but going in the wrong direction," said Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster at Public Opinion Strategies. Obama "is in danger, though, of becoming Jimmy Carter: Likeable, but unable to lead the country out of difficult times."

Then there is the accurate view, voiced on Hardball (transcript, here) Wednesday by The Huffington Post's Howard Fineman discussing with Chris Matthews' the job proposals made by Barack Obama. Fineman noticed

Yes, that`s exactly what it is because elsewhere in that poll and some other polls, voters were asked about their views of the different pieces of the bill itself, you know, the ideas within the bill. They`re more favorable toward the ideas in the bill than they are to the bill when it`s described as Barack Obama`s bill.

Wilson and Bolger find it significant that in polls and focus groups Americans seem to like President Obama personally. Their superficiality is stunning, as they fail to recognize two reasons people are responding favorably to a question about Barack Obama as a person.

Barack Obama is president. The vast majority of persons not belonging to the opposing party (and perhaps a majority of those who do) want the country to succeed; their hope that circumstances improve will be reflected in any question about their opinion about the person himself. And Barack Obama is the first black president, a fact indelibly etched on the brains of black and white Americans, if not Americans of other races. Blacks, for that and other reasons, are not going to find Barack Obama personally repugnant. Meanwhile, there is slim chance that many Caucasians, concerned that they will be accused of being racist (or thinking that of themselves), will tell a live interviewer that they personally don't like the first black president of the United States. In focus groups, generally videotaped, that fear is amplified. Whites simply do not admit not liking someone who is black. It is not done.

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West are touring (mostly) minority neighborhoods, expressing discontent with Obama's policies and urging a more progressive approach. The man is running a center-right administration, one that has made nary a gesture toward the poor (of which blacks are disproportionately composed) or the black community with little regard toward the working class (of which blacks are disproportionately composed). And a recent survey of the job performance of President Obama shows approval at 33% among whites and 84% among blacks.

Barack Obama's "brand name" is unpopular. Most people are rooting for the President of the U.S.A., as they normally do. Nonetheless, Obama's personal popularity is overestimated while the popularity of his policies is underestimated, which it now has taken Howard Fineman to acknowledge.

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