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People who don’t know how to read polls falsely claim that Bush is now more popular than Obama

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Under the headline “Bush More Popular Than Obama,” the right-wing Web site Breitbart.com carried THIS STORY the other day:

In a Gallup tracking poll released Tuesday, former-President George W. Bush currently stands with a favorability rating of 49%, compared to 46% who see the 43rd president unfavorably. Meanwhile, another Gallup poll shows President Obama with only a 47% percent approval rating, with 44% disapproving.

But there are several big problems with that claim, not the least of which is that it’s an apples-and-oranges comparison. Favorability ratings and job-approval ratings, as measured by Gallup, are two different things.

For example, the last time Gallup did a poll on Obama’s favorability rating was in mid-April. It showed that 55 percent of respondents viewed the president favorably, while 43 percent had an unfavorable view. But here’s the rub: A poll conducted at the same time on Obama’s job-performance rating showed 48 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval.

In other words, on the favorability scale — which measures likability and such — Obama’s numbers were 12 points to the good. On job performance, his numbers were only two points to the good. You see, the favorability and job-performance questions are not the same, and neither are the responses.

This difference was also evident throughout the presidency of George W. Bush. His favorability numbers were almost never as low as his job-performance numbers.

Consider, for example, results of Gallup polls conducted in the second full week of February in 2007, well more than a year before the nation’s economy collapsed. Bush’s job-performance rating was 37 percent positive and 59 percent negative. But his favorability rating was 44 percent favorable and 55 percent unfavorable.

The job-performance numbers were 22 points to the bad, while the  favorability numbers were only 11 points to the bad. That’s a considerable difference.

In summation, I don’t know for sure if the misleading story at Breitbart is a result of ignorance or a deliberate attempt to fool the folks who regularly visit that site.

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