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Trump's favorite pollster was the least accurate in the midterms

First things first: The theme song of the week is the theme to...

Posted: Dec 9, 2018 2:08 PM
Updated: Dec 9, 2018 2:08 PM

First things first: The theme song of the week is the theme to Love, American Style composed by Charles Fox and Arnold Margolin.

Number of the week: A new Marist College poll finds President Donald Trump's approval rating at 43% among registered voters. His disapproval rating is at 49%.

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That's in-line with the FiveThirtyEight average of polls among voters, which puts Trump's approval rating at 42% and his disapproval rating at 52%.

What's the point: The President continues to be unpopular in most polling. Yet, many of his backers and he insist that the average poll doesn't adequately capture his true level of support. Trump and these supporters are mistaken, however.

Just this week, the President tweeted out a result from his favorite pollster, Rasmussen Reports, that showed his approval rating stood at 50%. Rasmussen's polling does not meet CNN standards for a number of reasons including that it doesn't call cell-phones.

The fact that Rasmussen has a better approval rating for the President than other pollsters isn't new. This is why we've seen Trump mention Rasmussen many times. That leads to the media pointing out that other pollsters are far more pessimistic about his standing with voters.

But the average isn't always right. Before last month, there was no way to really know if the average was biased against Trump. It was conceivable that Rasmussen Reports was right. Maybe their likely voter screen was somehow picking up something true about the electorate that other pollsters were missing. Remember, pollsters did somewhat underestimate Trump in the 2016 election.

The midterm elections prove that at least for now Rasmussen is dead wrong and traditional pollsters are correct.

In the final three weeks before the midterm, 16 different pollsters released generic congressional ballot polls. Some of those pollsters, including Rasmussen, released multiple polls. In total, there were 32 generic ballot polls put out.

The generic ballot isn't a perfect estimate of the House popular vote because often pollsters don't mention the specific candidates running in each district and some districts don't feature candidates from both parties running. Still, these factors tend to cancel each other out nationally and are only worth a point or 2 at the very most. They don't excuse Rasmussen's midterm performance.

Rasmussen's final poll was the least accurate of any of the 32 polls. They had the Republicans ahead nationally by one point. Democrats are currently winning the national House vote by 8.6 points. That's an error of nearly 10 points.

Of course, it's possible for any pollster to have one inaccurate poll. Fortunately, for statistical purposes, Rasmussen released three generic ballot polls in the final three weeks of the 2018 campaign.

The average Rasmussen poll had Democrats ahead by 1.7 points on the generic ballot. That's an underestimation of their eventual position of nearly 7 points. This made Rasmussen's average poll more inaccurate than any other pollster.

Looking at all pollsters, the average poll hit the mark nearly perfectly. The average gold standard poll (i.e. ones that use live interviews, calls cell phones and is transparent about its practices) over the final three weeks of the campaign had Democrats ahead by 9.4 points on the generic congressional ballot. That's an error of less than a point. The average pollster overall, according to the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, had Democrats up by 8.7 points. Once all the votes are counted, that could have hit the nail on the head.

The accuracy of the generic ballot polling shouldn't be surprising given how well pollsters did in gauging Trump's own popularity. As I noted previously, the President's net approval rating in the average pre-election poll of voters was identical to what it was in pre-election polls.

Rasmussen's average net approval rating, on the other hand, was far too optimistic for the president. It was -1.5 points on Election Day, which was 7.5 points higher than the exit poll found. That is, Rasmussen's net approval rating of Trump was by about as off as Rasmussen generic ballot was.

When most pollsters get the results as wrong as Rasmussen did in 2018, they go into deep introspection. You can read the long report the American Association for Political Opinion (AAPOR) issued after the 2016 election.

Rasmussen, apparently, has done no such thing. Instead, they claim that the midterm result was relatively poor for Democrats compared to other midterms. It was actually one of the best in the House on record. Indeed, Rasmussen looks to be mostly satisfied by their polling.

Rasmussen has company in that regard. It seems that the President continues to be satisfied with their numbers as well.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 350070

Reported Deaths: 7590
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds24512449
DeSoto23513283
Harrison21172335
Rankin15798293
Jackson15735254
Madison11171227
Lee10903180
Jones9223169
Forrest9027163
Lauderdale8087244
Lamar724890
Lowndes7199152
Lafayette6631125
Washington5661140
Pearl River5357154
Oktibbeha503198
Bolivar5004134
Warren4817128
Panola4812112
Marshall4739106
Pontotoc452473
Hancock440388
Neshoba4401181
Union438979
Monroe4369138
Lincoln4228116
Pike3739114
Leflore3676125
Alcorn355374
Tate354988
Sunflower351094
Adams347490
Scott346677
Yazoo342977
Copiah330869
Simpson327191
Itawamba317281
Coahoma315685
Tippah312869
Prentiss302563
Covington302384
Marion289882
Leake288676
Wayne280945
George277351
Grenada272188
Newton266864
Tishomingo240770
Winston238084
Stone235338
Jasper234748
Attala228674
Chickasaw221460
Holmes202574
Clay201954
Clarke189580
Tallahatchie185642
Calhoun183232
Smith183036
Yalobusha173641
Walthall150449
Lawrence145426
Greene141935
Amite139144
Noxubee137235
Perry136138
Montgomery133944
Carroll127031
Webster124332
Jefferson Davis119834
Tunica116127
Benton107825
Claiborne105931
Kemper104429
Humphreys102333
Franklin88424
Quitman86319
Choctaw83119
Wilkinson79332
Jefferson72228
Sharkey51918
Issaquena1746
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 592417

Reported Deaths: 11542
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson861091591
Mobile49771865
Madison37714533
Shelby27501259
Tuscaloosa27344465
Montgomery26343628
Baldwin25860329
Lee17336181
Calhoun15498334
Morgan15225291
Etowah15060370
Marshall13198236
Houston12191293
Elmore10977219
St. Clair10852252
Limestone10816158
Cullman10610206
Lauderdale10305254
DeKalb9594192
Talladega9005188
Walker7840288
Autauga7615114
Jackson7431117
Blount7417139
Colbert6752142
Coffee6443132
Dale5723117
Russell482243
Chilton4810117
Covington4804125
Franklin462781
Tallapoosa4571156
Escambia451083
Chambers3987125
Dallas3751163
Clarke372263
Marion3470107
Pike334079
Lawrence3277100
Winston300773
Bibb292865
Geneva288383
Marengo262967
Barbour253761
Pickens247762
Butler242472
Hale236778
Fayette228165
Henry216545
Monroe204541
Randolph202844
Cherokee200748
Washington186839
Macon171552
Crenshaw170658
Clay167159
Cleburne161845
Lamar151938
Lowndes146255
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh122132
Coosa119529
Perry111228
Sumter110633
Greene99337
Choctaw64425
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