So far this year, the ‘Big Three' networks have only mentioned President Obama's poor approval ratings twice in their evening newscasts.
In the same time period, those same networks have commissioned 15 polls of the president's approval rating, according to a Media Research Center study.
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It’s no secret that television news has long been addicted to public opinion polls; decades ago, all three broadcast networks decided to partner with an influential newspaper (ABC News with the Washington Post; CBS News with the New York Times; and NBC News with the Wall Street Journal) to sponsor their own regular surveys for use in their political coverage.
That’s why it’s so extraordinary that polling news has practically vanished from the Big Three evening newscasts in 2014 as President Obama’s approval ratings have tumbled and the public opposes defining administration policies like ObamaCare. Just last Thursday, for example, Gallup found Obama’s approval rating at a record low 38 percent, yet none of the three broadcast networks bothered to mention this on their evening or morning newscasts.
Such coverage is in stunning contrast to how those same newscasts relentlessly emphasized polls showing bad news for George W. Bush during the same phase of his presidency. Media Research Center analysts reviewed every reference on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts to public opinion polls from January 1 through August 31, 2014, and from the same time period in 2006. Eight years ago, the networks aired 124 evening news reports which cited public opinion polls about either President Bush’s overall approval rating or his handling of specific policies. In 2014, those same broadcasts produced only nine reports which mentioned public opinion surveys related to President Obama.
The MRC's numbers are nearly as shocking as the media's lack of interest in the public's opinion of President Obama.
This year, the three broadcast networks have conducted 15 polls asking people to rate Barack Obama’s performance as President; 13 of those showed at least 50% of the public now disapproving of how Obama is handling his job. Yet the Big Three evening newscasts have essentially ignored their own polls, plus the dozens of others conducted by news organizations and universities that are commonly cited in routine political coverage.
So far this year, there have been only two citations on an evening newscast of President Obama’s national job approval rating. "Obama has the lowest average approval rating of any president after five years in office," correspondent Jon Karl announced on the January 28 edition of ABC’s World News. Seven months later on the August 31 edition of the CBS Evening News—a Sunday evening on a holiday weekend—political director John Dickerson opined that Democrats are facing a tough midterm election because the President’s "approval rating is just above 40 percent."
For its part, the NBC Nightly News has failed to report Obama’s overall approval rating during the first eight months of 2014, despite having conducted five nationwide polls on the subject.
Though the media's love affair with the president has waned, numbers show they still treat him with kid gloves compared to our last president.
The networks could be covering President Obama exactly as they covered President Bush eight years ago—down in the polls, an albatross to many in his party, with the public opposed to his signature policy—but they’re not. That’s an obvious favor to this President, and yet another example of how the media’s liberal bias skews the news.