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Panagakis: Comparing Job Approval Measures


Nick Panagakis is president of Market Shares Corporation, a marketing and public opinion research firm headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill.

This week our poll for the Chicago Tribune reported that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich had a job approval rating of 13% versus 71% disapproving of his performance - astonishingly low job approval. Some 16% had no opinion, which includes ambivalence. Our poll of 500 likely voters was fielded October 16-18.

But another Illinois poll found even lower numbers - an October 13th Rasmussen poll of 500 voters as reported by the Huffington Post.

Their question used a four-point scale asking respondents to "rate the way that Rod Blagojevich is performing his role as Governor". Results were: Excellent 0%; good 4%; fair 29%; poor 65%. Huffington reported individual ratings. But approval is often reported by combining the top two and bottom two scores. In this case, approval would be 4% and disapproval 94%, quite a difference from our 13%/71%. (Don't know response could be lower because of the 4-option scale or because this was an automated poll.)

Some background. In my earlier years, I conducted phone and exit polls for WBBM-TV, the owned and operated CBS station in Chicago. About a year after Jane Byrne was elected Mayor, we obtained her job approval using the four-point scale, combining the excellent to poor ratings to approve/disapprove. Byrne's late husband Jay McMullen, a former Sun-Times reporter, wrote to the station's general manager objecting to the use of that scale. So we did another poll asking both the excellent to poor rating and approve/disapprove questions.

McMullen was right. Not only was her approval score higher than excellent-good combined, but some of the "fair" raters also said "approve" when asked. Moreover, when asked reasons for rating Byrne the way they did, we got answers like "doing a pretty fair job" from those rating her both "fair" and "approve".

Turning to more current examples, two national pollsters use the four-point scale, Zogby and Harris. Harris asks "only fair" not fair. All others use the dichotomous approve/disapprove. George Bush approval ratings dating back to January 2001 appear on the Pollkatz site.

zzzmainGRAPHICS_14808_image001.gif

In the chart, Zogby polls are light gray diamonds and Harris polls dark gray diamonds. Note how often these symbols appear at the bottom of clusters of other scores, Zogby more often than Harris. The chart confirms my findings nearly three decades ago.

The four-point job rating has its supporters in the polling community. But it can be not compared with dichotomous approve/disapprove questions.

 

Comments
damitajo1:

The governor ranks about the same as Congress, which ranks lower than Bush.

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