A lesson on reading polls …

Over the past couple of days, there have been a few misleading stories in the N&O regarding political poll numbers.  I am going to assume the best — that Rob Christensen and the other folks in the N&O newsroom don’t understand how to read an opinion poll.  (Surely, they would not be spinning the numbers to mislead their readers in favor of the Democrats.) 

The latest headline, in today’s paper, reports “Obama’s numbers under water in NC.”  OK.  I’ll accept that.  Rob has created ANOTHER story based on the recent poll released by Public Policy Polling of Durham.

For the first time since February, more voters disapprove of him than approve of him in the state, and for the first time since November he faces majority disapproval.

His approval rating is 45 percent and his disapproval rating is 51 percent, according to a new survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic leaning firm based in Raleigh.

The president’s problems are with independent voters – he’s losing them. Last month, independent voters gave him a narrow 47-46 approval rating, but now that has dropped to 36/62.

It comes at a time when there continues to be bad unemployment numbers, and perhaps some of the glow of the killing of Osama Bin Laden is wearing off. It also comes at a time when an independent group and the Republican Party have begun TV advertising campaigns in the state attacking the Obama economic record.

First, I have to object to Christensen’s description of PPP as “Democrat-leaning.”  Boy, that’s an understatement.  That’s like calling the shark in “Jaws” or Jason in the “Friday the 13th” movies  “somewhat aggressive.”   That’s like calling Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez “left-of-center.”

Later, Rob seems to either (a) get confused or (b) try too hard to spin the poll for the Democrats:

In earlier polls, Obama had been beating all of his prospective Republican opponents. But in the latest poll, Obama is tied with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 45 percent.

Obama leads Michelle Bachmann 46-43, leads Herman Cain 46-42, Tim Pawlenty 46-41, and Sarah Palin 50-42.

About the only thing in Obama’s favor, is that most North Carolina voters don’t think much of the Republican candidates either. Bachman has a 34/42 favorability/unfavorability rating; Cain has a 24/36 rating, Romney has a 32/47 rating, Pawlenty has a 19/40 rating an Palin has a 35/57 rating.

The survey of 651 North Carolina voters was conducted July 7-10 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent.

OK, so Obama leads Bachmann 46-43 with a 3.8% margin of error.  That actually means the little known congresswoman is slightly leading Obama in North Carolina.  The margin of error puts Obama a fraction of one percent ahead of little-known radio show host and businessman Herman Cain in North Carolina.

According to the poll, Obama has 51 percent of the people saying they DISAPPROVE of him.   Bachmann has 58% who either approve of her or have no opinion.  That’s better than Obama.  Cain has 64% of the people either favoring him or holding no opinion.  He is in better shape than Obama.   Pawlenty has 60% of the people either favoring him or having no opinion. That is better than Obama.  Romney has 53% of the people either favoring him or having no opinion.   THAT is slightly better than Obama.  So, Rob, how is that data  “the only thing in Obama’s favor”?