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Why Can’t Fox News Dent Obama’s Approval Rating?

January 06, 2011 9:02 am ET by Eric Boehlert


The new year got off to a dark, dismal start for Fox News staffers when on Monday, Gallup posted its latest polling results regarding Obama’s job rating: He hit it the 50 percent approval mark, having climbed nine points from a low in late October. It was the first time Obama had reached the symbolic half-century mark since late May 2010, and I’m guessing folks at Fox News were not happy.

And there was more bad news for Fox this week. Another poll, this one from Opinion Research, found that nearly two-thirds of Americans hope Obama succeeds this year, while 73 percent “approve” of Obama as a person.

So why the sad faces at Fox News? Because it’s the job of Rupert Murdoch’s cable channel to make sure Obama fails. Fox News, along with the larger, unreliable GOP Noise Machine, remains dedicated to undermining and destroying Obama’s presidency. Not to hold Obama accountable or challenge his polices, but to destroy his presidency. Fox News’ entire corporate mission is to be an anchor around Obama’s neck and to drive his approval numbers into the 30s.

And right now, Fox News is losing. Despite its Herculean efforts, Fox News over the last year has been unable to move the needle on Obama’s Gallup rating:

-Jan. 2, 2010: 51 percent

-June 2, 2010: 49 percent

-Jan. 2, 2011: 50 percent

Why the futility? It’s probably because outside the walls of the right-wing media echo chamber, news consumers are becoming numb to the relentless attacks and hysterical claims made about Obama.

It’s telling that the president has been able maintain that same level of support for more than a year despite a hyper-active right-wing media machine that stretches from television to radio and to the internet and is  dedicated to furiously attacking him on an hourly basis. It’s a machine that remains utterly committed to ginning up every conceivable type of controversy to drag Obama, his administration, and even his family through the mud in an endless attempt to discredit the man and to destroy his presidency.

Yet in the face of that avalanche of invective, there Obama sat this week, right around Gallup’s 50 percent approval mark, which put him, at least temporarily, 13 points higher than where Ronald Reagan was at the same juncture of his first term in office.

It must be driving Fox News bonkers.

Because if you watch Fox News and tune into Rush Limbaugh and travel through the right-wing blogosphere you’re told Obama is arrogant and foolish and petty and clueless and distracted and hateful and shallow.

You know all these things because that information is pumped into the right-wing blood stream as part of a never-ending, get-Obama loop of hate. Think I’m exaggerating? Fox News this week took cheap shots at Obama for the type of sandals he wore on vacation.

And like the great sandals caper, most of the attacks on Obama literally make no sense. Just like it didn’t make sense (and wasn’t true) that Obama’s inauguration cost $100 million more than his Republican predecessor’s, or that the United States government spent two billion dollars to send Obama to India on a ten-day diplomatic excursion, (i.e. $8.3 million per-hour in supposed security costs), or that Obama wanted to “ban sport fishing.”

As Media Matters’ Jamison Foser asked back in June, “What lie won’t Fox News tell”?

Answer: We’re still searching.

Unless you watch Fox News regularly and maintain a steady right-wing media diet (or more sensibly, monitor it via Media Matters), it’s almost impossible to truly capture the avalanche of Obama-hating madness that drives that claustrophobic community.

But in a strange way that’s turned out to be good news for Obama. It turns out he’s blessed with facing a conservative movement that’s led not by politicians, but by media hucksters like Andrew BreitbartMichelle MalkinAndrew Malcolm and others who understand that force feeding their fanatical base of Obama-hating fans an endless diet of Obama-hating content is good for business because it drives traffic and ratings. But beyond that hermetically sealed right-wing world, the endless, shrieking Obama attacks have transformed into background noise, albeit dangerous background noise that must be monitored and kept in check.

I’ll concede Fox News is extraordinarily effective in chronically misinforming its aging, red-state audience about the day’s events, as well as convincing them that Obama is nothing short of a committed monster. And so have a whole legion of Obama haters.  Everyone on that side’s in heated agreement that not only is Obama’s agenda bad for America but that he’s fronting an historic, sinister attack on our freedoms and that he won’t stop until the Constitution has, quite literally, been shredded.

It’s that frantic, blinding hatred that binds the community together.  It’s also that frantic, blinding hatred that more and more Americans seem to be tuning out. (Did I mention Obama reached 50 percent in the Gallup poll this week?)

It’s the Boy Who Cried Wolf syndrome that’s now haunting Obama’s media critics. Remember when health care passed last March and the End-of-Days reaction from the GOP Noise Machine? As the vote approached we were just three “days away from the United States of America being over as we’ve all known it,” warned Limbaugh. Glenn Beck announced the health care reform bill represented a “turning point,” like the Civil War and Peal Harbor (i.e. “the end of America as you know it”) And colleague Sean Hannity pinpointed the health care vote as the “very hour” that America turned “completely towards socialism.”

Here were more subtle, right-wing voices of dissent from last year:

And let’s not pretend liberals and Democrats treated president Bush the same way during the previous decade. The type of hysterical, uncontrollable demagoguery that drives the conservative media today, every hour, was simply not mirrored by prominent media voices during the Bush year. (i.e. good luck finding the MSNBC news report that mocked Bush’s vacation footwear.) Yes, Bush’s media opponents railed against him. But they railed against his agenda, his wars, and his incompetence. High-profile media players didn’t obsessively portray Bush as the unpatriotic incarnation of evil the way the GOP Noise Machine has done with Obama since the day he was inaugurated.

By the way, it’s fitting that despite the absence of that kind of chronic, abusive attacks from the left, Bush’s approval ratings did tumble, and tumbled spectacularly in a way that Obama’s simply have not.

In the end, a majority of Americans sided with Bush’s critics. By contrast, it appears most Americans have stopped listening to Obama’s most deranged critics.

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