The nature of modern opinion polling can often lead to some frustrating results. With numerous polling operations working at the same time on the same questions, we often get a discordant view of what Americans are really thinking at any one time.
We certainly saw this during the 2004 election, when the polls were all over the place. At any one moment, you'd find conflicting reports of polls that indicated Bush was facvored by 15 points, or Kerry had a 5 point lead, or that -- at long last -- the fifth dentist had caved and now the entire profession was recommending Trident gum. Trying to make sense of it all was, in a word, maddening.
Now, however, we're seeing a new phenomenon with the president's abysmal approval ratings. When the first poll came out showing Bush had sunk in Americans' estimation to a point somewhere between chronic pedophiles and the musical assassins who brought us the macarena, conservatives dismissed it as an aberration. They picked apart the methodology, or dismissed it as a temporary bounce, or claimed it once again proved liberal bias.
But in the weeks since then, as more and more polls have come out confirming the American people's recognition that the emperor has no clothes, those denials have dried up. Even better, because all of the polls use their own methodology and don't compare themselves to each other, every time a new poll makes this discovery, it's touted with a headline that proclaims Bush has hit a "new low" in his popularity. Even though other polls have had him at 34%, the latest poll at 38% isn't an improvement for Bush because it is, for this polling outfit, a "new low."
The end result is that the president seems to keep sinking further when, in reality, he's merely struck bottom. There's a third of this country that right now would support the president if he devoured a fetus on national television. Even if he failed to say grace first.
But the news reports of all these polls come off not as a reminder that he's stuck at that low level of support, but as a week-by-week never-ending story that he's sinking to new lows again and again and again. And I, for one, will never get tired of watching those repeats.