TLP: At the White House, Polling Till It Hurts
The White House press office is learning a lesson in attitude. Spokesman Robert Gibbs (and do we think he has had about enough?) dissed reporters who were asking him about President Obama's standing in recent polls.
The pissy performance only did what it usually does for reporters: made them keep digging. And what they found was something delicious enough to give the administration a spanking.
The Huffington Post:
During his daily press briefing on July 13, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was peppered with questions about why the president's popularity numbers are in decline and his policy positions are so difficult to sell.Maybe if they keep spending money on polls, they'll be able to buy one that says what they want.
ABC News's Jake Tapper sought reaction to the network's newest poll showing that 51 percent of respondents would rather have Republicans running Congress. CNN's Ed Henry wanted to know why, in that same poll, "six in 10 Americans have little or no faith in the President to make the right decisions." CBS's Chip Reid then pointed to his own network's poll showing that only 13 percent of respondents thought the president's economic programs had affected them personally.
Exasperated, Gibbs deployed a classic rejoinder: mocking the polling-obsessed media culture.
"You know, in all honesty, Chip, there isn't a website in the world that doesn't have a new poll every day," the press secretary replied. "And if you spent a lot of time sitting around worrying about polls rather than worrying about the people that you're trying to help, I'm sure you'd get discouraged. But we're way too busy to sit around looking at polls."
Too busy to look at polls? Perhaps. But not too poor to pay for them. While Gibbs routinely chides members of the press for obsessing about the day-to-day temperamental swings of the American public, behind the scenes the White House has poured plenty of money into conducting its own public opinion polls. Through June 9, 2010, the administration, via the Democratic National Committee, has spent at least $4.45 million on the services of seven different pollsters, according to records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. (The Huffington Post looked into only those expenditures that totaled more than $5,000.)
That total represents only 18 months into the administration. During the first 24 months of the Bush administration, the Republican National Committee spent $3.1 million on polling according to a 2003 study done by Brookings. During the 2005-2006 years of the Bush administration, the RNC spent just north of $1.23 million on "surveys," "focus groups," and "polling," according to an analysis of Center for Responsive Politics data (they spent millions, instead, on telemarketing services). So far this cycle, the RNC has spent slightly more than $1 million on those same activities. (The Huffington Post did not examine data from the 2008 cycle because spending totals were affected by the presidential election.)