Are Trump supporters being dishonest with pollsters? Probably not.

This past weekend Marquette University Law School Professor Charles Franklin ...

Posted: Feb 28, 2018 12:22 PM
Updated: Feb 28, 2018 12:22 PM

This past weekend Marquette University Law School Professor Charles Franklin published an interesting analysis of President Donald Trump's approval rating. He noted that Trump tends to do better in polls in which there isn't a live interviewer present. The Washington Post's Philip Bump (who put together some really good charts) pointed out that this difference could arise out of people, especially Democrats, being afraid to admit support for Trump because it is socially undesirable to say you're for Trump.

It's an argument I've heard before, and, while it certainly cannot be dismissed, I am quite skeptical that respondents are lying to pollsters. Live interview surveys (such as CNN's) are probably accurately gauging Trump's support. The difference in results between the different types of polls probably has a lot to do with how different pollsters are obtaining their samples.

CNN typically doesn't report most non-live interview surveys (i.e. internet surveys or robopolls, which are almost always supplemented with an internet sample) because in most internet polls respondents aren't chosen at random. Respondents voluntarily sign up, which means that they may, in some way, be unreflective of the population at large even after the overall sample is adjusted to match the population.

Still, there are some internet surveys in which respondents are chosen at random (i.e. probability based) from the entire population. This allows us to test whether live interview surveys are less favorable to the President because A. people don't want to say they back the President or B. most internet samples are not probability based.

Respondents in these probability based online surveys were not more favorable to the President than in live interview polls. If anything, they were less favorable, which indicates that Americans aren't lying to live interview pollsters.

To my knowledge, there have been three pollsters who have asked about Trump's approval rating and who have internet panels that have been randomly selected: National Opinion Research Center, Pew Research Center (which also does live interview polls) and the USC-LA Times poll. National Opinion Research Center had conducted five surveys about Trump's approval rating, Pew (via its internet panel) had done three and the USC-LA Times had done two polls on Trump's approval rating since he came President.

For each of these surveys, I took an average of the net approval rating (approval rating minus disapproval rating) of live interview polls with an end date between three days before and three days after the end date of the probability based online poll. If pollsters were lying to live interviewers, we'd see the average Trump net approval rating in live interview polls be lower on average than the probability based internet polls. Instead, we see the opposite.

In all five of the National Opinion Research Center surveys, the live interview polls had an equal (once) or lower net approval rating (four times) for the President than the National Opinion Research Center polls. The average National Opinion Research Center poll actually featured a net approval rating of 10 points below the net approval rating of the live interview polls conducted during the same period.

One USC-LA Times poll showed Trump with a net approval rating of 2 points above the average of live interview polls done during the same period, while one showed it 4 points below an average of the live interview polls done over the same period. The average USC-LA Times poll had a net approval rating of 1 point below live interview polls done during the same time frame.

Finally, the same holds true for Pew. In all three Pew surveys, the average net approval rating was either equal (once) or lower (twice) than the net approval rating of live interview polls taken during the same period. The average Pew internet probability based sample had a lower net approval rating than the live interview polls by 4 points.

Interestingly, Pew's seven telephone polls over the course of Trump's presidency featured a net approval rating that averaged 3 points below other live interview polls during the same period. In other words, the Pew internet and Pew live telephone polls had net approval ratings that were about the same in relation to other surveys. In fact, a Pew report comparing one of their live interview polls with an internet survey of theirs conducted at the same time found no difference in opinions toward Trump between the two styles of interview.

Now, the sample size of probability based online surveys (10) is small enough that we cannot say that telephone polls are actually overestimating Trump. But the fact that we see no systematic improvement in his approval ratings in probability based online polls compared with live interview telephone polls strongly suggests that telephone polls aren't underestimating his strength because people are lying to pollsters.

It is, of course, possible that pollsters overall are missing some segment of the Trump population, even if people aren't lying about their intentions. Pollsters may not be weighting properly or some people may not be answering surveys for some reason. Polls underestimated Republican candidates across the board in the 2016 election, though it wasn't Trump specific (i.e. people weren't lying about Trump).

Just remember, though, that polling errors don't favor one side consistently from year to year. In elections during 2017, polls didn't underestimate Republicans. We shouldn't be expecting the polls to be underestimating Republicans now.

One final element is that all the surveys show similar trends. So even if live operator polls have Trump consistently higher or lower, when he goes down he usually goes down in all the live operator polls and online surveys. When he goes up, he goes up in all of them. So directionally they tell a similar story.

The bottom line is Trump is unpopular and, unless his approval rating rises, he could bring down congressional Republicans with him in 2018.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 501097

Reported Deaths: 9990
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34338538
DeSoto32117403
Hinds31939628
Jackson24494382
Rankin21995390
Lee15543235
Madison14581280
Jones13851242
Forrest13453251
Lauderdale11991317
Lowndes11050188
Lamar10521135
Pearl River9533237
Lafayette8550140
Hancock7732127
Washington7438158
Oktibbeha7146131
Monroe6777177
Warren6694176
Pontotoc6664102
Neshoba6637206
Panola6531131
Marshall6467134
Bolivar6317148
Union602894
Pike5820152
Alcorn5669101
Lincoln5436135
George496879
Scott472898
Tippah469281
Prentiss467281
Leflore4658144
Itawamba4636105
Tate4588111
Adams4587119
Copiah448592
Simpson4446116
Yazoo444187
Wayne439772
Covington428894
Sunflower4239105
Marion4226108
Coahoma4160105
Leake408288
Newton381779
Grenada3707108
Stone360364
Tishomingo359792
Attala331589
Jasper329965
Winston314291
Clay308076
Chickasaw300367
Clarke292494
Calhoun279446
Holmes267987
Smith264050
Yalobusha234047
Tallahatchie228051
Greene219348
Walthall218763
Lawrence212940
Perry205556
Amite205156
Webster202946
Noxubee186740
Montgomery179656
Jefferson Davis171743
Carroll169138
Tunica159839
Benton148838
Kemper141941
Choctaw133426
Claiborne132737
Humphreys129538
Franklin120228
Quitman106428
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94534
Sharkey64120
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 819597

Reported Deaths: 15406
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1147901924
Mobile725791338
Madison52306697
Shelby37597350
Baldwin37245552
Tuscaloosa35101612
Montgomery34106740
Lee23526246
Calhoun22225488
Morgan20941378
Etowah19825500
Marshall18361304
Houston17384412
St. Clair16054339
Cullman15443293
Limestone15343199
Elmore15241286
Lauderdale14302295
Talladega13836283
DeKalb12649261
Walker11202370
Blount10192176
Autauga10043148
Jackson9871184
Coffee9210191
Dale8897185
Colbert8860201
Tallapoosa7084198
Escambia6772134
Covington6712183
Chilton6641162
Russell636659
Franklin5959105
Chambers5607142
Marion5005127
Dallas4973200
Pike4795106
Clarke475584
Geneva4571127
Winston4516103
Lawrence4321117
Bibb425186
Barbour357776
Marengo338090
Monroe331464
Randolph329764
Butler326396
Pickens316284
Henry312666
Hale311388
Cherokee302860
Fayette292880
Washington251551
Cleburne247760
Crenshaw245275
Clay243368
Macon234663
Lamar224147
Conecuh186153
Coosa180240
Lowndes175164
Wilcox168839
Bullock151644
Perry138840
Sumter133038
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
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