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Pollster: Why the Polls Are Wrong About Trump. Again.

Pollster: Why the Polls Are Wrong About Trump. Again.

The result of a “polling bubble” perpetuated by left-leaning pollsters and the media

As we consider the flood of polls proclaiming that President Trump’s approval numbers are lower than those of any other president at this point in his presidency, a former Clinton pollster and current co-director of the  Harvard-Harris Poll takes issue with the majority of political polls’ methodology.

Mark Penn, writing at the Hill, refers to the problem as a “polling bubble” that involves both polling entities and the media.  He pinpoints three reasons for the unreliability of polls about Trump:  polls directed at “all adults,” polls focused on sensationalized “stories,” and participants’ unwillingness to be honest about their views.

In his article, “Why the polls are wrong about Trump.  Again,” Penn writes:

Today we live in a polling bubble – surveys taken from the perches in New York, Washington and Los Angeles may be obscuring rather than illuminating many of the underlying views and trends of the American electorate.

How else can one explain that although many polls showed a close race last November, almost no one (myself included) predicted a lopsided victory for Donald Trump in the Electoral College. Most media analysts and modelers concluded a Hillary Clinton victory was in the bag. One Princeton professor even agreed to eat a bug if Trump won.

As President Trump enters his 100th day, several of the same organizations are using their polls to proclaim that he has had the worst start of any modern president and the worst ratings of a president at this time in his presidency. While Trump is no FDR when it comes to forming a political coalition, a fairer reading of the polls and the election results shows his performance is probably 5 or 6 points better than is being touted and that his base of support with which he won the election remains intact.

Penn goes on to explain that most polls have moved away from polling likely or even registered voters, that the questions are focused on sensationalized narratives from the often anti-Trump media, and that voters are simply unwilling to share their actual views about the president with pollsters they regard with (well-earned) intense distrust and skepticism.

There are several reasons for this mismatch between likely reality and the interpretations we are seeing. Most polls have moved away from voters or likely voters to U.S. adults with no screen for registration or even citizenship. And the questions often focus on storylines and narratives critical of Trump. Rarely are they written from the perspective of having missed the major swings and economic discontent that upended the election.

The current crop of stories also sets Trump ratings expectations, as though America went through the typical process of coming together around the winner. Instead we had recounts, Russian conspiracies, investigations and rallies unlike any seen after any election. The country was sharply politically divided on Election Day and remains that way today. That is the backdrop of any realistic assessment of what is happening in America.

. . . . [T]he media echo chamber has, I think, made it more difficult for people to express their political views, especially to live interviewers. With the growing gender gap, I’m not sure most men are even telling their spouses or partners what their real views are on the president. In a recent Harvard Harris poll we did, only about 60 percent in the country now feel free enough to express their views to friends and family.

Ultimately, Penn concludes that Trump’s approval is probably at about 48% among those who voted in November.  (As an aside, this conclusion undermines Obama’s catty trolling of Trump by “pointing out that Obamacare is now more popular than his successor trying to repeal it.”)

All of this rings true.  Indeed Penn is not the first to argue along these lines.

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight has also called polls regarding Trump into question.

Back in February, he wrote:

The differences between the polls aren’t random, or at least they don’t appear to be based on the relatively limited amount of data we have so far. Instead, Trump’s approval ratings are systematically higher in polls of voters — either registered voters or likely voters — than they are in polls of all adults. And they’re systematically higher in polls conducted online or by automated script than they are in polls conducted by live-telephone interviewers.

I’ve seen at least as much cherry-picking from liberal and mainstream reporters. In my Twitter feed last week, for instance, a Pew poll that had Trump at 39 percent approval got a lot more attention than a Fox News survey which had him at 48 percent instead.

In some ways, the pattern reflected the one before November’s election, when reporters and pundits selectively interpreted the evidence and assumed that Hillary Clinton was a much heavier favorite than she really was based on the polls. Trump is not very popular, but he’s also no more unpopular than Barack Obama was for much of his presidency. If his numbers hold where they they are right now — especially among registered voters — Republicans would probably hold their own in 2018, and 2020 would be another highly competitive election.

It seems that the same outlets that erred so spectacularly in November haven’t learned a thing; indeed, they appear to be doubling-down on the very methods that led to their failure to predict Trump’s win.

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Comments

“It seems that the same outlets that erred so spectacularly in November haven’t learned a thing; indeed, they appear to be doubling-down on the very methods that led to their failure to predict Trump’s win.”

You might want to consider the pollsters are getting the results they are paid to produce. it’s not a matter of “learning”.

    Accepting payment for being intentionally inaccurate and thereby further eroding public trust in their own organization, one that depends in large part on public trust, seems like something one might learn to avoid. Don’t you think?

      The problem is, it’s not about ‘public trust,’ rather than these organizations being propaganda arms. If they keep spewing leftist propaganda, they’ll continue to be hired. If they told the truth, they’d be out of work.

      Speaking of corrupt hacks, the time is coming for Trump to abandon the GOP and form a new party.

      “Don’t you think?”

      Do you? I know you understand the progs have an agenda, and that lies told to serve that agenda are just fine with them.

      So why would you think they would conduct honest polling?

        RobM in reply to Barry. | April 29, 2017 at 3:55 pm

        This! Exactly Barry. They are ideological followers of the one true faith. They have no ethics because they do not recognize a different political point of view of having equal weight or value to their mission… which is to print stories and take polls that further control of the machine and drive opinion. That’s why the progs always focus on “messaging”… their base assumption is that if they only frame something or someone in the right way, they’ll hook ’em.

almost no one (myself included) predicted a lopsided victory for Donald Trump in the Electoral College

I predicted it. A what was my secret? I wasn’t misled by the polls, because I know that they’re crap. This is not my opinion, this is mathematical certainly.

To someone else who knows the math, I don’t have to explain.

And to someone who doesn’t know the math, there’s no point in trying to explain.

These pundits criticizing the polls still haven’t come to terms with it; they’re not just skewed or spun, they’re crapola from start to finish, and everything they think they know based on the crapola is itself crapola. Consider a gem like this—Trump is not very popular, but he’s also no more unpopular than Barack Obama was for much of his presidency. This is a total crap statement, because there is absolutely no data supporting it aside from the polls, and the polls are crap.

    IndependentDem in reply to tom swift. | April 28, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    The same comment annoyed me as well. I DID get it right. In September I was calling Trump at 306 electoral votes, giving Trump the nod in almost every state polling within the margin of error, based on the Bradley Effect and most people’s distrust of pollsters, and the media in general. I shared this with colleagues at the State Department, and they ridiculed me, so I just stopped talking about it. My own personal Bradley Effect.

IndependentDem | April 28, 2017 at 5:32 pm

I would agree with that assessment normally, Fuzzy, but most pollsters are appealing to their base, which is the left. Getting the facts wrong isn’t as important as getting the narrative right. They don’t lose any of the trust of the potential voters most pollsters apparently want to reach.

“Scientific” polls are anything but. The scientific method: guess, predict, compare.

Here it is in one minute: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OL6-x0modwY#aid=P20kDjskZwA

There is no way to determine whether the poll is anywhere near accurate.

Another Voice | April 28, 2017 at 7:53 pm

A better statistical report/poll could have been derived by clicking into the commentary and observations made by the posts of Diamond and Silk at YouTube. Had the renown pollsters used this forum to formulate their own polls by counting the number of hits, crunching the ups and downs and evaluating the comments responses, they too would have had a reality check on where and what they should be looking at to use as a campaign tool. These two gals were calling the win and naming the issues as early as the month the then President to be Trump held his first rally. How “deplorable” of all of them as to be that incompetent.

“And the questions often focus on storylines and narratives critical of Trump. ….”

That’s the major source of error. When the pollster does not even bother to conceal its agenda to get a preconceived result, people will catch on, discontinue the poll, or change their answers.

I find push polls irritating. Further, I have already seen that the Democratic Party in particular has an ugly history of disclosing the confidential information of gun owners and supporters of issues they disagree with. I distinctly recall that in California, people who contributed funds to support prop 8 were exposed to the full-throated roar of the left, even to the point of job loss.

If I respond to a poll, I know that somebody has my name, phone number, and address. Because I live in California, I know that if I answer the poll the “wrong” way, I might be subject to harassment, vandalism, or worse crimes.

Now, today, in an atmosphere where ANTIFA has been caught selling credit-card-sized knives to stab free-speech demonstrators, what on earth does anybody think Trump supporters are going to do when asked to participate in an anti-Trump push-poll?

Pretty obvious in my neck of the woods. Another thing, I see the Trump anger waning a bit. And I see even some libs apparently taunting but in a way that suggest that they wish he would keep a couple promises 1. the wall, and 2. a cut in corporate/capital gains/ and middle class income taxes. They are scared their kids will have no jobs or be able to buy a home. The taunts are more for a challenge to do it than a “ha ha”.

Polling is very useful, if it is 1) designed properly to reflect the actual positions of the respondents, 2)designed to accurately reflect the demographics of society, 3)the results are objectively analyzed and 4)those commissioning the polls have faith in their accuracy.

In the case of polling during the 2016 Presidential race, most polls met only one of these criteria. Many of the polls were designed to reflect negatively on support for Trump. They were horribly lopsided with regard to oversampling of demographics which would view Trump negatively. Analysis of the results were skewed based largely upon the subjective feelings of the pollsters with regard to Trump. The only condition met was that those commissioning the polls believed the results to be accurate. However, as the polls were so badly skewed, this just allowed people to sink deeper into the quicksand. These polls were skewed to reflect a perception of reality which was not true. So those who believed in the accuracy of these polls were horribly shocked when reality differed from their perception of it. In other words, they were proven to be delusional and reality won, again.

Unfortunately, it has now become impossible to believe most, if not all, polls judging political values. The pollsters can not admit to their ingrained bias, as this would destroy their careers. So, the inaccurate polling will continue. Ignore it and move on.

What about hangups?

You said: ” . . . Trump’s approval ratings are systematically higher in polls of voters — either registered voters or likely voters — than they are in polls of all adults. And they’re systematically higher in polls conducted online or by automated script than they are in polls conducted by live-telephone interviewers.”

But many of us conservatives and libertarians simply hang up when a pollster calls. We don’t trust ’em, we know they’re our enemies, so the hell with ’em.

inspectorudy | April 29, 2017 at 6:42 pm

A new piece is running on the web about how college students love a program when they believe it was an obama program. But when the same program is attributed to Trump they hate it! This would tell me that any poll that was not carefully screened would have the same results.

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