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USA Today/Gallup Poll: 42% of Americans Believe Bush Administration Manipulating Gas Prices to Help GOP

Reported by Marie Therese - September 28, 2006 -

A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted September 15-17 reveals that an astounding 42% of Americans believe that the current drop in prices at the pump are the direct result of manipulation by the Bush administration. Naturally FOX News could not let such a disturbing result go unchallenged. Consequently, on yesterday morning's FOX & Friends they invited Bloomberg News columnist Amity Shlaes to rebut the poll results.

Ms. Shlaes offered up a tasty dollop of opinion liberally sprinkled with a dash of half-truth, all nicely wrapped to convince the FOX viewers that the opinion of 42% of Americans is completely wrong.

AMITY SHLAES: "... The Republicans wish they could control the price but they probably can't. It's very hard for an administration to control the oil price even though it would be fun for it to do so, especially in an election year."

Note how she fudges her answer with the word "probably" indicating that she's not willing to make a categorical denial. Americans aren't stupid. They know that Bush and his cronies are thick as thieves with the Saudi sheiks, Wall Street financiers and Big Oil, the three groups most able to control the price of a barrel of crude.

SHLAES: "Well, perception is not always reality even though we wish it were and we learn that from marketing people. The reality is that it is a market and the market is very large and controlled by things from Alaska to the discovery of oil reserves to the mood in the Middle East. But there's a second aspect to this, which is interesting, which is that people do believe it. And I think that's important because Americans don't just have cars, they are their cars, so if you wake up in the morning and you feel good and you can go and the price is lower than it was before, that makes you feel good about the President. That part is real."

With these words Ms. Shlaes actually articulated the precise reason that Bush and his billionaire cronies would go to the ends of the earth to lower the price of a gallon of gas two months before an election, i.e., studies show that the price of a gallon of gas has a direct impact on the President's favorables.

SHLAES: "... And OPEC has some control. The administration has some control. The oil companies have some control. But there's a lot of hypocrisy in here, too. For example, last summer the Democrats wanted this windfall profits tax really bad. They wanted it to help the consumer, to punish the oil companies. Well, now something has happened that does help the consumer, this lower oil price, less at the pump, and the Democrats are saying the Republicans are bad and they caused it. So you want to look out who's saying what (sic). There's a lot of manipulation going on in the language here."

First of all, no Democrat has said that lowering the price of a gallon of gas is "bad". That is an assumption Ms. Shlaes made because it advanced her argument. In addition, notice how skillfully she labeled the entire 42% as "Democrats" despite the fact that the Gallup poll showed that approximately 1/3 of the 42% (14%) were Republican or Independent. According to an article in the September 26th edition of USA Today (N. B. Original post mistakenly attributed excerpt below to Business Week)

Fimat USA oil analyst Antoine Halff says there is no doubt "the downturn in prices is welcome news from an electoral standpoint for the ruling party." But he scoffed at the notion that the president has the power to muscle a global market.

The plunge in prices, Halff says, is the result of growing U.S. inventories of fuel, slowing economic growth and toned-down rhetoric between Iran and the United States, which has been critical of Tehran's uranium enrichment program.

The sell-off has been magnified, Halff says, by the recent retreat from the market of many speculative investors who got burned by the late-summer volatility in commodities prices. Just last week, a prominent hedge fund told investors it lost some $6 billion due to bad bets on natural gas prices.

That said, "the sky is not falling," says Halff, who believes oil prices will likely head higher again this winter and average more than $65 a barrel throughout 2007.

GRETCHEN CARLSON: "It's amazing to me how gas prices can be almost the single indicator of likeability of a President."

SHLAES: "It's a tribute to the President, 'cause he has less power than people think he does. Any executive has less power, so - but, but that has more, again, to do with our feeling that we are cars and our nation goes with cars so cars are important so we feel good about everything globally in our life, including the Executive."

COMMENT

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SPECIAL NOTE (9-28-06, 12:05 PM ET): Since Ms. Shlaes offered no proof of her assertion that the President's approval rating is tied to gas prices, I thought I'd post the following chart which clearly shows the correlation. It was produced by Dr. Paul Kedrosky.

BushApprovalGasPrice

2nd UPDATE (9/27/06, 4:00 PM ET): Here is a link to a site that delves into the unique and unprecedented relationship between Bush's approval ratings and the price of gas/oil. This site predicted that Bush would rise to 40% by making assumptions based on their charts.

Bush and Gas