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: 312712

Reported Deaths: 7223
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21445257
Hinds20264414
Harrison17785308
Rankin13548278
Jackson13401246
Madison10055217
Lee9959173
Jones8361163
Forrest7638152
Lauderdale7191240
Lowndes6361144
Lamar620686
Lafayette6164118
Washington5318133
Bolivar4796132
Oktibbeha460698
Panola4550105
Pearl River4493145
Marshall4393103
Warren4371121
Pontotoc419372
Monroe4089133
Union408876
Neshoba4022176
Lincoln3944110
Hancock376886
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335590
Tate332084
Pike3290105
Scott314973
Alcorn311268
Yazoo310269
Itawamba299277
Copiah296065
Coahoma293979
Simpson293888
Tippah287468
Prentiss278960
Marion268780
Leake265573
Wayne262241
Adams261882
Grenada260085
Covington256281
George246748
Newton246161
Winston226881
Tishomingo225467
Jasper220748
Attala214173
Chickasaw206957
Holmes188672
Clay184654
Stone181833
Clarke177879
Tallahatchie177840
Calhoun169732
Yalobusha162936
Smith162134
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125838
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104626
Claiborne102230
Benton99025
Humphreys96133
Kemper95328
Franklin83423
Quitman79916
Choctaw76018
Wilkinson66830
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 529446

Reported Deaths: 10930
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763031516
Mobile40850804
Madison34622501
Tuscaloosa25701451
Montgomery24289585
Shelby23367247
Baldwin21035307
Lee15822169
Calhoun14469313
Morgan14266279
Etowah13806352
Marshall12185222
Houston10533280
Elmore10029205
Limestone9948150
Cullman9640193
St. Clair9589239
Lauderdale9407239
DeKalb8814185
Talladega8199175
Walker7214277
Autauga6914108
Jackson6801111
Blount6635136
Colbert6288134
Coffee5498117
Dale4820111
Russell438438
Chilton4258111
Franklin424782
Covington4111117
Tallapoosa4004150
Escambia393076
Chambers3555123
Dallas3543151
Clarke350661
Marion3105100
Pike310177
Lawrence299798
Winston273672
Bibb260463
Marengo249064
Geneva247676
Pickens233659
Barbour230756
Hale222276
Butler215869
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184145
Randolph179241
Monroe177040
Washington167039
Macon158850
Clay155156
Crenshaw151957
Cleburne148341
Lamar141534
Lowndes138553
Wilcox126729
Bullock122941
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa106928
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
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