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: 245847

Reported Deaths: 5356
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto16717168
Hinds15748310
Harrison12806188
Rankin10334204
Jackson9996172
Lee8666135
Madison7994158
Jones6112108
Forrest5826117
Lauderdale5672174
Lowndes5186106
Lafayette482792
Lamar471162
Washington4700122
Bolivar3915105
Oktibbeha384279
Panola357274
Pontotoc356552
Monroe3463101
Union334755
Warren334692
Marshall333264
Neshoba3310149
Pearl River313891
Leflore2969104
Lincoln290185
Sunflower275868
Tate264759
Alcorn257850
Itawamba257058
Pike254876
Hancock246957
Prentiss240047
Scott238743
Copiah235649
Yazoo235054
Tippah233845
Simpson230166
Leake226764
Coahoma219054
Grenada213970
Covington207171
Marion203371
Adams200065
Winston196260
George195937
Wayne193029
Attala190958
Newton185142
Chickasaw179943
Tishomingo179059
Holmes167467
Jasper163533
Clay155632
Stone138818
Tallahatchie137033
Clarke135160
Calhoun132021
Smith117322
Yalobusha112534
Walthall110536
Noxubee108922
Greene108229
Montgomery107134
Carroll102320
Lawrence99817
Perry98631
Amite95725
Webster90024
Claiborne84125
Tunica84021
Jefferson Davis82925
Humphreys80324
Benton79722
Kemper75620
Quitman6678
Franklin64613
Choctaw59412
Wilkinson57424
Jefferson52019
Sharkey42317
Issaquena1576
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 414583

Reported Deaths: 5945
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson60842887
Mobile29590538
Madison26466183
Tuscaloosa20537267
Montgomery18562304
Shelby18181112
Baldwin15841177
Lee1212097
Morgan12002112
Etowah11488142
Calhoun10863197
Marshall10048106
Houston8405123
Cullman792294
Limestone785073
Elmore7670101
DeKalb757282
St. Clair7417120
Lauderdale740282
Talladega6036108
Walker5834176
Jackson571937
Colbert522270
Blount521980
Autauga507555
Coffee431456
Dale388278
Franklin362145
Chilton332965
Covington325567
Russell318910
Escambia309842
Dallas297988
Chambers275769
Clarke272933
Tallapoosa2591107
Pike245829
Lawrence239345
Marion238649
Winston222535
Bibb211347
Geneva196331
Marengo196329
Pickens195331
Hale172542
Barbour169636
Butler166958
Fayette164026
Cherokee158330
Henry149219
Monroe143617
Randolph137635
Washington135426
Clay124446
Crenshaw117444
Lamar116819
Cleburne115123
Macon111935
Lowndes107935
Wilcox99921
Bullock97128
Perry95019
Conecuh92820
Sumter89126
Greene75123
Coosa59814
Choctaw50824
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