One reason why Republicans so often cite Rasmussen Reports is that other pollsters have consistently shown much more — and more resilient — support for President Obama and his policies. The new Gallup Poll is a kidney punch to Republicans: by a two-to-one margin, people side with the president over them on the stimulus. Sixty-seven percent of voters approve of the way Obama has “handled the government’s efforts to pass an economic stimulus bill,” with 25 percent disapproving. By a margin of 48 percent to 42 percent, they approve the way the Democrats have handled it. But 58 percent oppose the way the Republicans have acted over the past month, with just 31 percent in support.
I’m not surprised by this: I think Republicans have acted (and prematurely popped open champagne) on two assumptions that aren’t true right now.
The first is that voters rejected them in 2006 and 2008 because they spent too much money; the subtext is that voters oppose big government spending, and reward the party that cuts it down. This seems like a tautological argument that’s not backed up by history — how much did former President Ronald Reagan cut spending, after all? The second false assumption is that Republicans are winning the spin war because their arguments are leading newspaper articles, columns and TV broadcasts. There’s a Republican senator or congressman making the anti-stimulus case on cable at basically any moment.
The problem: So what? If a tree falls down during MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” does it make a sound? Americans don’t actually watch these shows, and they’re not coloring their opinions of the president.
UPDATE: Byron York sees another story:
Fox News Channel was up 23 percent in total viewers in the two weeks after the inauguration, compared to the two weeks before. In the same period, CNN was up just 5 percent, and MSNBC was down 1 percent. While you can’t conclude too much from that — research shows that Fox has a pretty diverse audience, with more Democratic viewers than CNN has Republican viewers — it’s clear Republicans are no longer averting their eyes. They’re in a good fight, and they like it.
They’re still losing, but now they’re doing it with more people watching.