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Zogby Poll Showing Obama Ratings Falling to 50-50 Causes Stir

10:29 AM, Mar 26, 2009 • By GARY ANDRES
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This new poll released by Zogby showing President Obama's approval rating dropping to around 50 percent has caused quite a stir in the last day or so. The Boston Herald's Joe Dwinell caught wind of the new survey and wrote before it was released:

The honeymoon is over, a national poll will signal today as President Obama's job approval stumbles to about 50 percent over the lack of improvement with the crippled economy.

The sobering numbers come as the president backpedals from two prime-time gaffes - one comparing his bowling score to a Special Olympian and another awkwardly laughing about the economy, which prompted Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes" to ask "are you punch-drunk?"

News of the low approval number in the Zogby poll spread quickly among bloggers. But Nate Silver over at Fivethirtyeight.com was not impressed with the new survey: "The Worst Pollster in the World Strikes Again," he wrote. Silver penned his piece before the poll was released, but raises some questions about the methodology and Zogby's track record with internet polls here.

Charles Franklin, writing at Pollster.com, puts the Zogby poll into a little more context. Franklin notes -- correctly I would add -- that the Zogby poll needs to be compared with daily tracking surveys like Gallup, Rasmussen and other non-daily national polls to get a fuller perspective. Looking at the chart Franklin constructs, Zogby is clearly an outlier compared to other polls.

Franklin writes:

Poll results are far more meaningful when we look at them with a bit of perspective. The chart also makes clear how the Gallup and Rasmussen daily tracking polls differ from one another as well. Gallup's daily tracker consistently results in higher approval ratings than do non-daily national polls. Rasmussen consistently results in lower approval ratings than do non-daily national polls. But put them all together and we get a trend estimate based on all the polls that matches the trend for conventional non-daily polls quite well. If we pick only Gallup or only Rasmussen, we may have a biased understanding of the state of public opinion. Not by a huge amount, but by a persistent two-or-three points up or down compared to the overall trend or to the non-daily polls. This is no surprise. House effects, the tendency of polling organizations to produce modest differences from one another, are well known and much written about. By putting all the data in the chart for everyone to see we let these house effects stand out in an obvious way.

Franklin's chart displays a nice visual context for the Zogby poll.

The bottom line is the Zogby poll seems out of sync with other recent surveys measuring presidential approval.

One final point. It's also important to remember that the Zogby poll asks the presidential evaluation question slightly differently. Instead of asking if respondents "approve or disapprove" of the job the president is doing, it asks if the president's job performance is "excellent, good, only fair, or poor." In Zogby's surveys "fair" and "poor" both equate to "disapprove." That's debatable in my view.

Read the Herald story here.