Many on the Left try to disparage any action Bush has taken by citing his poll numbers, especially regarding the war in Iraq. If the public doesn’t like it, it shouldn’t be done, or so goes the argument. Well, as I’ve said many times before, I hate polls, but if you want to live by them, are you willing to die by them? Whatever you said about Bush when his poll numbers were dropping, is the opposite true now that they’re rising?

We’re seeing some slight hints of positive news for the Bush administration. For one thing, Bush’s job approval rating has stopped its downward trajectory. Bush hit bottom with his administration low point of 29% in early July (based on our USA Today/Gallup poll readings). Now – in the data just about to be released from our weekend poll – Bush’s approval rating has recovered slightly to 34%. That’s not a big jump, but it is the second consecutive poll in which the president’s numbers have been higher rather than lower.

Is the war a better idea now because the “surge” numbers are going up? (Emphasis mine, for a point to be made later.)

Also, we are seeing a slight uptick in the percentage of Americans who say the “surge” in Iraq is working. That may not be a total surprise given the general tone of news out of Iraq recently, including the positive light on the situation put forth by Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack in their widely-discussed New York Times op-ed piece “A War We Just Might Win” on July 30. But it represents a change.

Indeed, the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll itself found a slight increase in the percent of Americans saying that the U.S. did the right thing in taking military action in Iraq, and were so uncertain about it that they redid the survey. And found the same results.

While public opinion can be important with regards to a war, the very transient nature of it shows that it’s not a good idea to lean too heavily on it regarding public policy.

The role of the media should not be discounted, either. Most of the media folks are down on the war, and the stories they cover and how they cover them mirrors much of that. And, as emphasized above, those reports and opinion pieces shape the way people think about the war and other topics, so when the media ignore all the good stories coming out of Iraq and then trumpet poll results as bolstering their view, it is very disingenuous. They know full well how their actions game the numbers. A single opinion piece by liberals who finally decided to see for themselves what was going on was a big factor, Gallup says, in bringing the numbers up. This says to me that if the public knew all the good things happening in Iraq — if they got the fair and balanced full story — the poll numbers would be quite different.

I say again, I hate polls. My opinion on whether we should have gone to war in Iraq is not based on the feel-good (or feel-bad) story of the week, or how well the war is going today. But for enough folks, it does matter, and thus polls are the worst kind of “news” story. However, I am more than happy to hold those who do hold polls in high regard to their own standards.

Doug Payton blogs at Considerettes.

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