Bloomberg posts interesting results of a poll saying that investors and the general public see Obama’s economic performance very differently.

Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama is rated more highly by the general public than by affluent U.S. investors for the job he’s doing and his economic stewardship.

Sixty-one percent of Americans surveyed in a Bloomberg News poll September 10-14 say they view Obama favorably, compared with 49 percent of U.S. investors in a separate poll in July. Forty-six percent [of Americans] in the latest poll express optimism about the government’s economic plan, versus 27 percent of investors.

And check it out:

Investors are almost evenly divided over whether Obama or former President George W. Bush provided better economic leadership, with 43 percent supporting Bush and 41 percent backing Obama. By contrast, ordinary Americans give the nod to Obama by a 55 percent to 28 percent margin.


The poll compared results of a survey of the 1,004 members of the public in the last few days to a poll of 400 investors back in July, a different time period, so, the comparison should be taken with an even larger grain of salt than is needed for polls generally. Still, Obama’s general numbers have done nothing but fall since July so there’s no reason to think investors think more highly of him today.

I don’t know why this split surprised me so much, but it does. And it carries a warning to the business media: there are investors, with their narrow set of interests, and there are readers, and they’re not the same thing.

Speaking of narrow, here is the explanation for investor/public divide provided by the pollster, Bloomberg’s sole source on the question:

“These groups approach economic issues with different mindsets,” says J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., the Des Moines, Iowa-based firm that conducted the polls. “Investors focus on the money with their business interests in mind. The American public is highly charged by the partisan debate.”

I see. Investors are hard-head pragmatists; the American public is a bunch of manipulable hysterics. Got it. That apparently satisfied Bloomberg’s editors, so I guess it will have to be good enough for me. Still, a reader can fairly ask whether Selzer, the president of Selzer & Co., of Des Moines, should really be treated as the last word, or, perhaps, the People of the Box could have found another source to provide an alternative explanation—maybe the public looks after its interests, too.

Now, on questions of economic stewardship, one might naturally be inclined to go with investors, like the 300,000 or so Bloomberg-terminal readers. As Bloomberg’s top editor, Matt Winkler, is given to say, they’re the smartest people on earth, or something, and, at least, they can be trusted to look after their interests, as opposed to, say, the public’s.

But, as a member of the public, who is not as smart as those savvy, sharp-eyed, hard-nosed traders who, deftly manipulating their Bloombergs all day, bark out forceful commands and place risky and heart-pounding bets with, um, other people’s money, it is difficult to grasp why an administration during which the financial system gorged itself until it had a heart attack, wiping all stock market gains and leaving the S&P 500 down 40 percent for the eight-year period is in a dead heat with one during which the market has gone up 33 percent as of yesterday. Maybe if Bloomberg had been polling gold investors (click on the 10-year chart) it would make more sense. Those lovers of political and economic mayhem clearly have reason to feel good about the past decade, but stock investors, not so much.

I know past performance is no guarantee of future results, but, still, another call to Des Moines is in order.

I bring all this up because this investors/public split, Audit readers, helps explain why the business press reads the way it does.

We here at The Audit have long argued, in various contexts, that business-news outlets have in the past decade or so increasingly narrowed their focus toward the narrow interests of investors and away from the much broader interests of readers. Call it the CNBC-ization of business news. It’s a big mistake.

Investors are people, too, as a business editor once helpfully pointed out to me, but it is not in business journalism’s own interest to cater solely to them. An investor focus leads to coverage that is incremental, reactive, access-oriented, insider-focused, and concerned with the weeds, not the big picture.

This investor orientation explains about why the business press so often misses the important stuff and can’t find the best stories with both hands.

To those who believe it was ever thus, you are wrong.

Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.