Gallup punches back! Says White House should understand polling

From the Gallup's "Polling Report" blog by Frank Newport, Editor in Chief of Gallup

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Value of Daily Tracking

It's not unusual for politicians to react to polls. I've certainly seen it many times over the years, particularly when elected representatives or candidates are confronted with poll results they don't like.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked Tuesday about Gallup Daily poll results showing a drop in President Obama's job approval rating. According to news reports, Gibbs responded with some critical remarks and unusual analogies.

I'm certain Gibbs didn't intend to impugn the value of presidential job approval polls in general. It appears he was reacting more to the fact that the president's approval numbers are not stable, but, in fact, in a period of some change. More specifically, Gibbs was reacting to our report Monday highlighting the fact that, while there was a short-term positive uptick in Obama's job approval ratings after his Afghanistan speech last week, his ratings through the weekend fell back.

But this type of movement is the nature of the beast. Gibbs said that if Gallup were his EKG, he would visit his doctor. Well, I think the doctor might ask him what's going on in his life that would cause his EKG to be fluctuating so much. There is, in fact, a lot going on at the moment -- the healthcare bill, the jobs summit, the Copenhagen Climate Conference, and Afghanistan.

We live in a representative democracy. Our politicians are accountable to the people. Certainly the accountability that matters most is on Election Day. But keeping tabs on the people's views of their elected representatives between elections is vitally important - and something in which the people of the country are demonstrably interested. We at Gallup are fortunate to have the capability to interview random samples of Americans on a daily basis. This helps us closely monitor the ways in which presidential actions are being received by the national constituency.

Of course, it's not just Gallup that finds this important. I'm sure the White House was just as interested as we were in how the president's major speech at West Point last week played to the American public. Our tracking helped provide the answer.

Obama is set to travel to Oslo, Norway, to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The White House is probably just as interested as we are in how the American public is going to react to this event. Our tracking will give us the answer -- both in the short-term and in the long-term. (And I'm sure the Obama campaign in 2008 paid a great deal of attention to their own tracking polls measuring how his candidacy was doing as the events of the campaign rocketed across the news each day.)

The foundation of the tracking poll is state-of-the-art, sound scientific sampling methodology, as is the same with all of our Gallup polling. Gallup reports presidential job approval using a three-day rolling average. Users are, of course, free to make whatever use they would like of the daily tracking information. The same pertains to their use of daily stock market reports, daily Nielsen ratings of television shows, or any other frequent measure.

For those interested in trends over a longer period than the three-day average reported daily, Gallup aggregates job approval on a weekly basis and reports weekly demographic breakouts.