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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.

Confirmed Cases: 91935

Reported Deaths: 2780
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6903153
DeSoto532153
Harrison368771
Jackson334367
Madison318086
Rankin313473
Lee254066
Jones236078
Forrest231069
Washington215671
Lafayette203039
Lauderdale1984123
Bolivar177465
Oktibbeha173749
Lamar156633
Neshoba1524103
Panola140926
Sunflower138543
Lowndes138457
Warren136650
Leflore134380
Pontotoc120416
Pike120148
Monroe117665
Scott115925
Copiah115433
Coahoma110927
Holmes108458
Marshall106714
Grenada104535
Lincoln104453
Yazoo103429
Simpson100142
Union96524
Tate94537
Leake93535
Adams89135
Wayne87121
Pearl River84850
Marion83633
Covington79321
Prentiss78617
Alcorn75310
Newton74722
Itawamba74121
George73913
Tallahatchie73418
Winston71919
Tishomingo65035
Attala63625
Chickasaw63524
Tippah63516
Walthall58925
Clay56216
Hancock55420
Noxubee54015
Jasper53615
Clarke52538
Smith51714
Calhoun50612
Tunica47213
Montgomery45020
Claiborne44916
Lawrence42212
Yalobusha41314
Perry39016
Humphreys36915
Quitman3625
Stone34611
Greene33516
Webster32813
Jefferson Davis32211
Carroll30812
Amite30710
Wilkinson30117
Kemper28515
Sharkey25812
Jefferson2359
Benton2151
Franklin1863
Choctaw1775
Issaquena1033
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 128097

Reported Deaths: 2264
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson18648332
Mobile12949288
Montgomery8560170
Madison736573
Tuscaloosa7015112
Lee558259
Shelby550149
Baldwin502148
Marshall376342
Etowah326344
Calhoun321139
Morgan312925
Houston260621
Elmore247547
DeKalb230119
St. Clair218134
Walker217780
Talladega199925
Limestone191919
Cullman180017
Franklin172728
Dallas172526
Russell16912
Autauga162424
Lauderdale159231
Colbert157224
Escambia154324
Blount150413
Jackson146610
Chilton143325
Dale128042
Covington127027
Coffee12388
Pike11329
Tallapoosa112483
Chambers110642
Clarke104417
Marion91428
Butler90238
Barbour8097
Marengo69319
Winston68512
Lowndes64327
Pickens62214
Bibb6179
Hale60828
Bullock58514
Randolph58512
Lawrence57620
Monroe5708
Washington54513
Geneva5404
Perry5356
Wilcox52911
Cherokee52816
Clay5187
Conecuh51611
Crenshaw51531
Macon46619
Henry4524
Sumter41719
Fayette4128
Choctaw34212
Lamar3302
Cleburne3116
Greene29915
Coosa1573
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