Tag Archives: polls

Indulging My Confirmation Bias….

Oh come on–we all do it. Call it “cherry picking” or “confirmation bias” or just closed-mindedness, most of us scan information sources for items that tell us what we want to hear.

As the Trump Administration continues its daily assault on reason, ethics and democracy, and as evidence continues to emerge confirming its rampant criminality, the lack of movement in the polls becomes more and more worrisome. At 538.com, the average of polls measuring Presidential approval has shown virtually no change for months; some 54% disapprove and around 40% still approve.

I know that even the most sophisticated pollsters encounter all kinds of problems–and that too much reliance on their results is misleading. Figuring out which voters have cell phones or landlines, the dramatic decline in response rates, difficulty in determining the identity of likely voters (especially in atypical times), and other methodological challenges make polling a fraught exercise.

That said, the thought that four out of ten Americans actually approve of Trump’s performance is terrifying.( I know that level of approval is considered abysmally low historically, but this is not a “normal” horrible President.)

So when I saw this headline on a post at 538.com.--Trump May be Even More Unpopular Than His Approval Ratings Show–  I immediately clicked on it.

Polls have consistently shown that President Trump is pretty unpopular, with only about 42 percent of the American public approving of the job he is doing as president. These numbers are much lower than what one might expect given the bustling economy.

But does the standard presidential approval question actually capture what voters think of Trump’s job performance? There are several reasons it might not tell the full story. For one, in this hyper-partisan era, presidential approval numbers have become increasingly polarized and don’t move around all that much, so they may now say more about which “side” people are on (pro-Trump or anti-Trump, Republican or Democrat) than voters’ actual evaluation of how the president is doing.

In order to get what they described as a “more nuanced” result, the pollsters asked respondents to rank their feelings for Trump relative to other notable Republicans, rather than asking people whether they approve or disapprove of the president. The other Republicans they chose were former President George W. Bush, the late Sen. John McCain, McCain’s former running mate Sarah Palin, Vice President Mike Pence, and former President Ronald Reagan.

The results were comforting.

This is now our second survey where we’ve measured Trump’s favorability among likely voters, and in both surveys, we found that the standard presidential approval question may be overestimating Trump’s popularity. Our first survey was conducted before the 2018 midterm elections (July 3 to July 12) and our second survey was conducted soon after the Dec. 18 House vote that formally impeached the president (Dec. 20 to Dec. 22), but in both instances, likely voters rated Trump toward the bottom of our list of Republicans.

Before the midterms, Trump’s favorability rating was statistically indistinguishable from Pence’s, and only Palin was rated less favorably. Following impeachment, Trump was even lower relative to the other Republicans we asked about. Not only is he the least popular president to run for reelection since Gerald Ford according to polls asking the standard presidential approval question, but in our measure, he is now also rated less favorably than his vice president. He’s also essentially tied with Palin for the least favorable Republican on our list.

There was, as expected, a significant partisan split. But among independents thought to be potential swing voters, Trump ranked at the bottom of the list — statistically tied with both Palin and Pence. As the pollsters concluded:

The bottom line is that the president appears even more unpopular than previously thought, and more disliked than the standard presidential approval question is able to reveal. Although the electoral implications of Trump’s unpopularity and impeachment remain to be seen, the data we do have isn’t promising for Trump.

The survey confirms my strong belief that November will be all about turnout. If Democrats  get enough people to the polls to overcome predictable vote suppression efforts and other dirty tricks, we will rid America of the criminal cabal that is currently enriching itself while it trashes the environment, democracy, and the rule of law.

 

The Sixty-Four Thousand Dollar Question

Older readers may recall a quiz show that built to a finale in which the prize was $64,000. During the time the show was popular, when a difficult question would come up in conversation, someone was likely to say “Well, that’s the 64,000 dollar question!”

I thought of that when I read the results of several recent polls showing a majority of Americans disapproving of Donald Trump–with 46% disapproving strongly. (Obama’s “strong disapproval” never approached that number.)

Pew, of course, is the gold standard of polling. Daily Kos recently reproduced Pew’s poll, and its demographic breakout of approvals/disapprovals;  the breakout prompts me to ask that $64,000 question:

Now it’s clear that there’s a dramatic racial divide in our nation’s politics, but there’s a dramatic difference among whites based on whether they have a college degree or not:

                                        APPROVE      DISAPPROVE
WHITE                                51              48
BLACK                                12              80
HISPANIC                          25              72
WHITE, COLLEGE           38              61
WHITE, NO-COLLEGE    57             41

And that white, non-college-educated cohort is Trump’s firewall. He’ll bleed support among all those other groups, but there’s relatively not much room to drop. So if he’s going to end up in the low 30s or even high 20s, very possibly within six months, it’ll be because non-college whites start abandoning him. And if Trump loses those guys, there’s nothing else propping up the GOP. And 2018 will be a political bloodbath.

The question is obvious: What will it take to erode Trump’s support among the non-college-educated whites who still support him? What is it that they see that appeals to them? The easy answer–which may or may not be the correct answer–is that he has given them someone to blame for their discontents, “others” who can be held responsible for whatever economic or social injustices they experience. African-Americans, Mexicans, Jews, immigrants, elitists….

If that is, in fact, the basis of their approval, we may wait a long time for them to realize that his policies will deepen, rather than ameliorate, their distress. If there is one thing Trump is good at, it is blaming others for his own missteps and deficits; if the economic condition of those voters declines (as it is likely to do, given the policies that he and his cabinet choices embrace–policies that will benefit the well-off at the expense of the working poor), he will blame Congress for failing to pay billions for his wall, or the courts for failing to keep “those people” out, or the media for actually reporting what he says and does.

There’s an old saying to the effect that people cannot reason themselves out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into in the first place. There was no coherent, logical, reality-based argument for supporting Trump, and overwhelming evidence that he was monumentally unfit for the Oval Office. What will it take to weaken Trump’s support among those who voted for him because they hated Hillary,or would never vote for a woman, or because they thought wealth implied competence, or because they resented having had a black President, or because they always voted for the Republican?

How long will they continue to shrug off the mounting evidence of corruption and dangerous ineptitude as “fake news”? Will they convince themselves that the Russians are really nice guys, and Trump’s cozy relationship with Putin is no big deal? How embarrassing will his behavior have to get in order for them to recognize his mental instability?

What, exactly, will it take?

Needs No Elaboration

Sometimes, the bare facts speak for themselves.

From a recent Pew polling release: “In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap.”

There’s evolving, and then there’s regressing.

Tomorrow it will be 2014–and 57% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats reject long-settled science upon which all biology is based.

Happy New Year.

A Peek in the Mirror

Ross Douthat is a conservative columnist at the New York Times (given David Brooks’ frequent forays into non-ideological common sense, it would not be inaccurate to say he is THE conservative columnist there). This morning’s column displayed an interesting combination of obtuseness and dawning recognition of political reality.

Douthat joins other conservatives who simply cannot fathom why Romney isn’t walking away with this election. He goes through several possible reasons–identifying “villains” like the “liberal education establishment” that has shifted the culture to the left–before settling on the likely culprit. And that culprit is…George W. Bush! He’s the one who destroyed the party’s brand!

Now, Bush clearly deserves a good deal of blame for the electorate’s distrust of GOP competence. But nowhere does Douthat suggest that the ham-handed Romney campaign with its wooden candidate might have something to do with the current status of the race. And only at the very end of his column does he grudgingly admit that the party doesn’t seem to have learned anything from the disaster in Iraq and the rape of the middle class by the bankers and other Masters of the Universe.

Conventional political wisdom tells us that “it’s the economy, stupid!” So Douthat and other conservative pundits are mystified by the increasing likelihood of a second Obama term.  What seems to have escaped them is yet another timeworn political adage: “you can’t beat something with nothing.”

You can’t beat a sitting President with a deeply flawed candidate whose only persuasive argument is that he isn’t Obama. And you can’t beat a party that reflects the ideas and aspirations of a diverse and ever-changing electorate with a party composed mainly of rigidly ideological old white guys.

As the GOP keeps reminding Obama, you can’t blame George W. Bush for everything.

 

The Poll Next Tuesday

Yesterday, WISH TV and Franklin College released the first independent poll of the mayoral election. It had something for everyone–Ballard is polling significantly less than 50%, typically a danger sign for an incumbent. On the other hand, he was ahead of Kennedy. The number of undecideds was huge this late in the race, and the early voters favored Kennedy by a wide margin, suggesting more enthusiasm for the Democrat.

Of course, when a poll has a 4.9% margin of error, any results should be viewed with some skepticism.

Actually, political polling has fallen on hard times. Last year, Brian Vargus–the Political Science Professor who has long been regarded as the local expert on political surveys–came to talk to my class. His message was that most political polling is worthless–that accurate, reliable surveys are prohibitively expensive, and campaigns and media outlets simply don’t do them anymore. That’s why you see such large margins of error.

A good poll will be representative of those actually likely to vote. That means including minority communities that are historically under-polled (Julia Carson routinely polled 15-20 points lower than her vote on election day). It means including younger voters who use cell phones exclusively (and accounting for the fact that they’re less likely to vote). In other words, a good poll requires both accurate sampling and the use of methodologically predictive algorithms.

According to this morning’s news, Vargus raised several questions about the WISH poll, based upon some internal inconsistencies. But even assuming it is reasonably accurate, what it tells us is what politicians have always known: what matters is the poll taken on election day, and that poll depends on who does the best job getting out their vote.

A recent study of 155 elections involving incumbents showed that voters who were undecided two weeks prior to the election broke 80%/20% for the challenger. Evidently, if the incumbent didn’t have them by then, he wasn’t going to get them. That’s good news for Kennedy–if her campaign gets those folks to the polls.

At the end of the day, turnout is the key.