Tuesday'sfront-page story on a New York Times/CBS News poll, the first of Obama's presidency, celebrated Obama's "remarkably high" approval ratings: "Survey Reveals Broad Suport For President - G.O.P. Stance Is Faulted ." Reporters Jeff Zeleny and Megan Thee-Brenan posed Obama for future greatness - on the backs of those recalcitrant Republicans who failed to back his "economic stimulus plan."
President Obama is benefiting from remarkably high levels of optimism and confidence among Americans about his leadership, providing him with substantial political clout as he confronts the nation's economic challenges and opposition from nearly all Republicans in Congress, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
A majority of people surveyed in both parties said Mr. Obama was striving to work in a bipartisan way, but most faulted Republicans for their response to the president, saying the party had objected to the $787 billion economic stimulus plan for political reasons. Most said Mr. Obama should pursue the priorities he campaigned on, the poll found, rather than seek middle ground with Republicans.
A month into Mr. Obama's term, with his first big accomplishments, setbacks and political battles behind him, more than three-quarters of the people polled said they were optimistic about the next four years with him as president. Similar percentages said that they thought he was bringing real change to the way things were done in Washington and that they had confidence in his ability to make the right decisions about the economy.
The aura of good will surrounding Mr. Obama at this stage of his presidency is similar to the one that benefited Ronald Reagan as he led the nation out of economic gloom.
With a job approval rating of 63 percent, Mr. Obama is in a strong position to sell his economic policies. Yet the poll also captured skepticism about how effective his plans will prove to be in addressing the deep recession, as well as a strain of populism that could test his ability to retain public support for efforts to prop up key sectors of the economy.
The last paragraph shoehorned in a side issue that's long been a Times favorite:
The White House is reviewing many practices of the Bush administration, including the barring of photographs of the coffins carrying soldiers killed in Iraq. Mr. Obama has yet to offer an opinion on the matter, but the poll found that 69 percent of Americans would like to see the policy reversed.
Do you think the public should or should not be allowed to see pictures of the military honor guard receiving caskets of soldiers killed in Iraq as they are returned to the United States?
The Times is certainly on top of the big stories: How many of the paper's respondents had thought about the photo question before the pollster asked? The paper shrewdly framed the question as a matter of the public's right to know, rather than a media rights issue or a privacy issue for soldiers' families. One imagines that if the question had used an alternate wording such as, "Do you think the press should be allowed to take pictures of caskets of soldiers killed in Iraq...?" the approval numbers would be significantly lower.
Ignored in the story: The answer to poll question 43, in which dreaded conservative tax cuts proved more popular (50%) than the liberal solution of government spending (41%).
In your opinion, which will do MORE to protect or create jobs: increased government spending on infrastructure, health care, education and other fields, OR tax cuts that would put more money in the hands of individuals and businesses?
The story also didn't mention the poll foundmost Americans (58%) don't think hearings are necessary into whether or not the "Bush Administration's treatment of detainees, the use of wiretaps and other Justice Department practices broke the law." If the numbers had been reversed, the Times would surely have let its readers know.
While the story noted Obama was "reviewing many practices of the Bush administration," the poll also failed to pose questions about "practices" that might put the Obama administration in a bad light among his supporters. Here's a suggested question for next time, courtesy of Times Watch: "On many issues related to national security and civil liberties, like the rendition of terrorism suspects, Obama is following in the footsteps of the Bush administration, in opposition to his campaign rhetoric. Do you approve or disapprove of President Obama's apparent flip-flops?"