Thankfully, some reporters appear to have learned their lessons from the demonstrated superiority of polling averages during campaign season. Before the Quinnipiac poll even hit, Steve Kraske of The Kansas City Star wrote an excellent May 24 story on how “the country’s view of President Barack Obama looks to be set in concrete,” which reviewed a broad array of survey evidence.

Similarly, several reporters offered necessary context from other polls in their coverage of Quinnipiac’s results. Politico’s Kevin Cirilli, for instance, led his story with a narrative-based take (“President Barack Obama’s approval rating took a hit amid three controversies surrounding his administration”), but included a clear and significant caveat for readers in his fourth paragraph:

Quinnipiac’s results stand in contrast to Gallup, which has found that Obama’s approval rating has gone largely unchanged since the IRS scandal and other controversies. According to its Gallup Daily Tracking poll, the president has a 50 percent approval and 43 percent disapproval.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Peter Grier was even more cautious. His story opened with the question—“Is political controversy dragging down President Obama’s approval rating?”—and included this caveat, which explicitly cited (and linked to) another polling average:

It’s important to note, however, that this is just one poll. The RealClearPolitics rolling average of major polls still has Obama’s rating above water (barely), with 48.7 percent approving of his actions and 48 percent approving.

Most notably, however, CNN’s Ashley Killough wrote an online story that covered the results from new questions in Quinnipiac’s poll, but reported on a simple (and CNN-branded) averaged version of Obama’s approval rating instead of Quinnipiac’s numbers. This unique approach allowed her to offer a more cautious and systematic evaluation of the evidence than any other report:

As for President Barack Obama, his job approval rating stands at 49% in a new CNN Poll of Polls, which averages the six most recent nonpartisan, live-operator national surveys of the president’s approval rating; 46% said they disapprove. The polls were conducted in the past two weeks, after the IRS and AP controversies made national headlines. The president’s rating stands little changed from the CNN Poll of Polls conducted over the whole month of April, which showed the approval-disapproval split at 49-47.

CNN’s journalistic credibility took a beating during the Boston bombings investigation, but this is one case where the struggling cable network is at the leading edge.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Brendan Nyhan is an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College. He blogs at and tweets @BrendanNyhan.