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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: 338079

Reported Deaths: 7523
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23409440
DeSoto23069280
Harrison20064328
Rankin15119290
Jackson14743251
Madison10806227
Lee10568179
Jones8864169
Forrest8408159
Lauderdale7684243
Lowndes6917151
Lamar683789
Lafayette6502124
Washington5551139
Pearl River5060150
Bolivar4923134
Oktibbeha484798
Panola4739112
Warren4690127
Marshall4670106
Pontotoc442873
Monroe4293137
Union429179
Neshoba4232181
Hancock417788
Lincoln4148116
Pike3605113
Leflore3587125
Tate351488
Alcorn346474
Sunflower344994
Adams338488
Scott336676
Yazoo335673
Simpson319290
Copiah319068
Itawamba312480
Coahoma311585
Tippah300568
Prentiss295063
Covington287183
Marion281780
Leake281575
Wayne274643
Grenada267588
George266251
Newton258964
Tishomingo238070
Winston236284
Jasper227548
Attala223373
Stone219437
Chickasaw217560
Holmes197674
Clay194654
Clarke184480
Tallahatchie182742
Calhoun179432
Smith177535
Yalobusha170240
Walthall144448
Lawrence140026
Greene137634
Amite135643
Noxubee134235
Perry132438
Montgomery131544
Carroll125431
Webster119132
Jefferson Davis114234
Tunica113227
Benton105925
Claiborne104831
Kemper101429
Humphreys99833
Franklin86723
Quitman84319
Choctaw81819
Wilkinson76532
Jefferson70428
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 574737

Reported Deaths: 11492
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson839571589
Mobile46611857
Madison36938532
Tuscaloosa26841465
Shelby26769255
Montgomery25853624
Baldwin24213326
Lee16897181
Calhoun15210332
Morgan14990289
Etowah14721369
Marshall12855235
Houston11661292
Elmore10727217
St. Clair10587250
Limestone10535158
Cullman10323204
Lauderdale10044253
DeKalb9335191
Talladega8797187
Walker7659286
Autauga7456114
Jackson7295117
Blount7233139
Colbert6614142
Coffee6117131
Dale5393117
Russell467742
Chilton4666117
Covington4623125
Franklin447281
Tallapoosa4420157
Escambia425282
Chambers3880125
Dallas3707163
Clarke366462
Marion3413106
Pike326979
Lawrence3211101
Winston293972
Bibb282965
Geneva274283
Marengo259067
Barbour245161
Pickens239662
Butler237672
Hale232378
Fayette225064
Henry206645
Randolph196144
Monroe195041
Cherokee194548
Washington179339
Macon168352
Crenshaw165058
Clay163659
Cleburne159945
Lamar149738
Lowndes144854
Wilcox129831
Bullock126042
Conecuh119530
Coosa116729
Perry109928
Sumter108732
Greene98336
Choctaw63925
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Thursday will be another very hot and very humid day across Mississippi and Alabama. Many areas will be well above 100 degrees with the heat index, some even as high as 120 degrees in the Delta of Mississippi.
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