Images, Scandal, and Communication Strategies of the Clinton Presidency

By Robert E. Denton; Rachel L. Holloway | Go to book overview

11
The Rhetoric of Presidential
Approval: Media Polling and the
White House Intern Scandal

J. Michael Hogan

In a study of polls in the news in the 1970s, Paletz and his colleagues (1980) observed that presidential popularity polls were the most commonly reported non-election polls and concluded: “At times the pollsters’ desire to measure, and the passion of the press to publish presidential approval ratings appear to be fetishistic” (499). Since the 1970s, of course, presidential approval polls have become even more prominent in the news. During Ronald Reagan’s two terms in office, for example, the Gallup poll alone asked its presidential approval question at least 135 times (Edwards & Gallup, 1990, pp. 91–113), or an average of just under seventeen times per year. During the first term of the Clinton presidency, Gallup posed the question still more frequently: a total of 102 times over the four years, or an average of more than twenty-five times per year (Gallup Poll, 2000). To this total, of course, one might add dozens of other polls that use the exact same question as Gallup to measure “presidential approval.” According to a compilation of the standard approval polls from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research (2000), the CBS/New York Times poll asked the approval question seventy-three times during Clinton’s first term in office, the CNN/Time (Yankelovich) poll sixty-four more times, and the ABC/Washington Post poll added forty-four more to the count. A search of the Roper Center’s POLL database—the most comprehensive archive of polling data available—turned up 516 polls using Gallup’s standard approval question during Clinton’s first term in office.1 And this count

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