Does Howell Raines rent out his spike?

In case you’ve missed the latest minor storm in the blogosphere:

1. Time and CNN ran a poll about ten days ago. The results showed Bush’s job performance down to 55%, down eight from the last poll and slightly below the declining trend line starting right after his post-9-11 peak. That line had been going down steadily until the trend was broken by the bump Bush got around election time. He’s now essentially within a point of his pre-9-11 level. The poll also asked a question new to me: “Do you think that Bush is a leader you can trust, or do you have doubts and reservations?” The answer: 50% “trust,” 49% “doubts.”

2. Time ran the results prominently in print, but did not put them on line. Thus Polling Report, which usually has the Time/CNN data, has no mention of it; it still shows Dec. 9-10 rather than Dec. 17-18 as the most recent Time/CNN figures.

3. CNN did put some of the results, under the headline “Bush Advisers Get Favorable Marks” (as opposed to Times “Bush’s Approval Comes Down to Earth”). The CNN story mentions the trust number only casually, and doesn’t mention the job-performance number at all.

4. Liberal Oasis posted some of the numbers from the Time story and cited the downplaying of the results as an instance of conservative media bias

5. Kos urged us all to chill, explaining that this is a slow news season and the folks at Time have other fish to fry, including “Person of the Year.”

6. Interesting Times posted a scanned version of the Time story. [Same link as above.]

7. The Red Blog States know nothing of it.

Now, “chill” is almost always good advice. It doesn’t matter much whether these numbers are discussed now. Yes, bad polling news has some momentum effects, but if Bush’s job performance rating has really fallen into the mid-50s someone else will measure that and report it. [UPDATE: MYDD links to another poll showing a virtually identical number, and points out that it still puts Bush in good shape for 2004.] As usual, laziness and screw-ups are more likely than deliberate misfeasance.

That said, the story certainly seems to have rated more play than it got. The numbers on the “trust” question, in particular, testify to something less than wild popularity. And it’s really hard to imagine what sort of news judgment could have informed CNN’s decision to report the results so oddly. Certainly if the New York Times had behaved similarly with respect to good news for Bush, both You-Know-Who and Whatsisname would have mentioned it by now.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: