THE BLOG

Obama's Pollster

03/25/2009 05:19 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ben Smith caught a another small glimpse into the Obama polling operation buried a longer story in yesterday's Wall Street Journal on the administration's efforts to build support among bankers and financiers for the bank bailout plan:

Mr. Obama and his aides regularly and publicly criticized financial firms for buying private planes and redecorating offices and hosting lavish parties. The talk was fueled in part by the results of surveys by New York pollster Joel Benensen, commissioned by the Democratic Party, which Mr. Axelrod regularly reviews. The polls consistently showed that the public blames big financial firms for the current mess, and is hesitant to offer aid.

A New York Times profile of Axelrod a few weeks ago had a similar reference. Smith adds that Benenson "was was Obama's key pollster in the general election" and is "close to Axelrod," though points out that we cannot tell yet from FEC filings how much polling the DNC political operation is doing on behalf of the White House).

When the new reports appear, do not be surprised to see the Democratic Party conducting considerable polling and research on behalf of the White House, following the pattern of previous administrations. As I wrote back in January, such polling has become standard operating procedure for presidents going back to Kennedy. That activity has been chronicled in a series of articles in the journal, Public Opinion Quarterly. The most recent study, by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas and James A. McCann (abstract, full text) found that presidents since Carter "do not vary significantly in the average amount spent per month on polls" and that such spending on internal polling increases throughout the term and especially "during the most intense months of a presidential reelection campaign."