Obama’s 100 Days: Who’s Counting?

Everywhere I turn there’s a pundit or poll lauding or criticizing Obama’s first 100 days in office.  From Gitmo to bailouts, it seems everyone has an opinion…well almost everyone.

There are omnipresent experts giving very partisan, nonpartisan, nearly partisan, and anti-partisan interpretations of Obama’s relative successes and failures.  Supporting many of these talking heads are polls galore  that give the “citizens’ point of view” in the form of nicely crafted close-ended questions tied up in the beautiful bow of statistical significance.

Yet despite all this information, when it comes to the matter of Obama’s benchmark, I can’t help but wonder what a group of U.S. citizens would say about the last 100 days.  To be clear, I don’t mean inviting people to Tweet or live blog during news casts –those techniques tend to illicit responses from the converted (e.g., viewers of Fox News or Keith Olbermann) or the incensed.  I’m talking about asking a mix of “everyday people” what’s on their minds, not forcing them to react to a seeded storyline.

Beyond the “Agree/Disagree” forced-choice paradigm resides important and rich detail: how do voters define success—their own and Obama’s?  In the mad rush to get food on the table and kids to school, do they really care that he shook hands with Hugo Chavez?  What report card would they use to evaluate Obama and how much of their litmus test is being espoused by the experts and polls?

Two weeks ago in this blog, I challenged television executives to use their viewers to create content.  Now I challenge news outlets to imagine a community of voters who continuously provide insight and feedback—nuanced, elaborate answers that are impossible to get through polling.  Imagine how much we could learn about our country and president if we stopped asking narrow questions and started really listening.