All Polls Are Wrong

william.scherk

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The phrase "all polls are wrong" was a cool hinge-point of argument last year, as the Trump train rolled on ...

Yesterday a Democrat penned an interesting article at The Hill. It didn't say that "all polls are wrong," but that surveys of President Trump's popularity in the USA are flawed and in no way indicative. In other words ... Why the polls are still wrongHere's a few excerpts from the article:

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The polls that failed to detect the full strength of President Trump on Election Day continue to underestimate the president’s support for the job he is doing, paying way too much attention to the Twitter wars and ignoring the public support for many of the actions is undertaking.

This can create some serious misjudgments by organizations like the NFL and some Republican senators, who find out later that they buck the president only to their own detriment. And nothing was more devastating to Democrats than believing the election was over when it wasn’t.

Polls show the president’s approval rating all over the lot. An Associated Press poll put it at 32 percent and suggests that only 24 percent see the country as going in the right direction. This strains credulity given what happened in the special elections against the Democrats.

[...]

The methodology of some of these polls is to poll “all adults” without any qualification as to citizenship or voting intent. A lot of the nonvoters dislike politics and all politicians, and these polls also include them along with undocumented immigrants who are not screened out. Another group of polls has Trump’s approval in the low 40s, and Harvard-Harris Poll, which eliminates all undecideds, has it at 45 percent, similar to Rasmussen.

Remember, Americans liked President Obama for his way with words and his calm leadership style. They just opposed many of his policies, so Obama’s numbers gave a false sense of approval. Trump is the mirror opposite. People are put on edge by his words while favoring a lot of the positions he is taking on issues.

When it comes to rank-and-file Republican voters, Trump is the undisputed leader of the Republican Party. No poll I’ve seen puts his support from Republicans at below 80 percent and we at Harvard-Harris have it at 84 percent, which is remarkable, given his knock-down-drag-out fight with some mainstream Republicans.

[...]

The failure to understand the 2016 election was in large measure not a failure of the final polls, many of which showed a close race, but a failure to understand the powerful storyline of Trump’s appeal with his respect for cops and the military, taking a more aggressive position against our enemies, and pushing for tax and health-care reform. His style is not what won him the presidency. It was, remarkably, his substance.

I, frankly, didn’t at the time see his rise in the Republican primary as realistic. I don’t believe he has advanced his coalition from Election Day, and rank-and-file Democratic opposition has hardened. But he hasn’t lost his support either, and taking on “The Swamp” only empowers him further.

It is by watching the underlying public sentiment of what he is doing, and not his methods, that you see how polling better watch out here, as reality versus research will again be tested, and reality always wins.

Mark Penn is co-director of the Harvard-Harris Poll and was a pollster for Bill Clinton during six years of his presidency.

The Penn article also received some pushback, in this instance from Philip Bump of the fey canoes Washington Post: Why is a former Clinton pollster writing iffy poll analysis that panders to Trump supporters?

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It’s true both that Trump is broadly unpopular (as measured by multiple opinion polls) and that there are positions he espouses that are popular. We will cede that since, well, it’s sort of obvious. We will also cede the point that Republicans broadly think Trump is doing a good job, something that has been noted any number of times by The Washington Post and others.

As Penn makes that point, though, he goes out of his way to include weird cultural touchstones that seem clearly intended to appeal to that Trump base.

For example, this is how Penn dismisses polling that shows Trump as unpopular:

The methodology of some of these polls is to poll “all adults” without any qualification as to citizenship or voting intent. A lot of the nonvoters dislike politics and all politicians, and these polls also include them along with undocumented immigrants who are not screened out.

There are two implications here. The first is that somehow people who don’t vote don’t get to have an opinion on the president. The second is that the number of people who reject the president is swollen by undocumented immigrants. At most, undocumented immigrants represent 3 percent of the population, a group that’s less likely to speak English and almost certainly not registered to vote. To suggest that they make up a significant portion of the responses to a poll is disingenuous.

“The president gets 65 percent approval for hurricane response and 53 percent approval for the economy and fighting terrorism,” Penn writes as he fleshes out “a more complex picture” of opinions on Trump. “He gets his lowest marks for the way he is administering the government. And he is a divider when people want a uniter.”

This is deliberately playing down how low Trump’s numbers are

Here's a snapshot from the folks at 538:

allpolls.png



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All Polls are Wrong.  I don't see why any present poll or polling average should give comfort to the Democratic campaign, because it seems like the real campaign hasn't started.  About the only areas that might be of concern to the GOP campaign are seemingly 'iffy' contests for the Senate.  I will put down a marker here of so-called swing state polls, and return once all the votes are counted in these (maybe) key races.  

Arizona -- today Real Clear Politics aggregate of surveys suggests that Democrat Mark Kelly is ~11% in front of the incumbent GOP senator McSally.

Colorado -- RCP's page suggests (on very very scant data) that the incumbent Corey Gardner is ~10% behind challenger John Hickenlooper.

Iowa -- GOP senator Jody Ernst won over her 2014 Democratic opponent by 8.5%.  RCP has no information on the present race, but a mid-June Iowa Register survey suggested a three-point advantage to the Democratic candidate Theresa Greenfield.  

Maine -- up for re-election is Susan Collins, who won her 2014 contest by 14 points. RCP currently shows a slight lead for her 2020 opponent Sarah Gideon.

Montana  -- RCP has no data to present on the race here between Steve Daines and Steve Bullock. But I include this one to test the mettle of the Cook Political Report, who has put the race in the 'toss-up' column.

North Carolina -- the incumbent is Thom Tillis of the GOP. He faces Cal Cunningham. RCP rates this contest a 'toss-up' on scant data.

So, if Arizona, Maine and Colorado are lost by the GOP on November 3, then the Senate will be even-steven, 50 to 50.

senateElectonInteractiveJune20_2020.png

 

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