All in Favor of Polls?
Terry H. Schwadron
July 18, 2017
To a certain extent, we all have somewhat soured on polls about politics. Without regard to where one is one the political spectrum, comparative numbers in these numbers are reinterpreted so often and so heavily in the spin that they have little real meaning. It’s way to easy to see minimal sampling among people with landline phones may not properly reflect the “science” of randomness.
Except, of course.
So long as no one is deciding how unpredictable voters will react, polls may tell us something about continuing situations.
Unfortunately, those of us who are not political professionals tend to read in our own biases when looking over these results. After all, if we could really trust these kind of “random” surveys, we would have anticipated Donald Trump’s election. Still it is hard to misread continuing downward movements of approval of the president’s performance in office.
What I find most interesting about a set of four new national polls about presidential performance and approval/disapproval are the steady, almost-unmoving healthy minority of public support for Donald Trump’s performance in office, even as overall numbers for his performance continue to decline, and the insistence by many that there is no Russia issue. Instead, it would seem, the Trump argument that all-things-Russia is a creature only of Washington political circles may be more true than we would like to believe.
Overall, various polls about presidential performance continue to show that Donald Trump is found somewhat wanting. The best polls from the counties where Trump won show him barely finding support among almost half the voters where he once had overwhelming support. Obviously, Democratic and independent areas show much lower performance numbers, as they have since January.
But whether the approval number this week is 36% approval or 42% is hardly the point. Lots of Americans say they do not trust this president in a number of questions, but more than one-third of the electorate is hanging in with him despite insulting tweets, health care policies that may adversely affect themselves, lack of legislative achievement and at least questionable actions in his transactional approach to foreign affairs.
I’m troubled by all of it, of course. We have a president who wants to be leader for that one-third of the electorate and who overlooks fact, research, collection of real data, and compromise in search of broader coalitions “to make America great.” The White House has made clear that it will decide by fiat whether the climate is heating up, whether there is significant statistical support to associate immigration and crime or terrorist incidents and immigration rules, and, of course, whether there was any meddling in U.S. elections by Russia. And one-third of Americans seem to think that is perfectly okay.
Thus, per a Washington Post/ABC News poll, almost 40% of respondents in recent polls think that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the outcome of the election, though 60% think Russia tried to interfere. Some 44% are willing to say that Trump’s campaign benefitted from any Russian interference.
The responses to these and related questions about Russia split on political lines. If the caller described himself or herself as a Trump supporter, responses about the “appropriateness” of Donald Trump Jr. meeting with Russians to get political dirt on Hillary Clinton went up. The Post noted that “responses to the question correlate strongly to how people feel Trump is doing as president,” adding that “there’s a correlation between views of Trump and views of Russian meddling.” If you believe Trump is doing a good job as president, that is, you’re more likely to believe Russia didn’t try to influence the election either. Additionally, voters don’t tend to waver once they’ve made up their mind about Trump’s possible collusion with Russia. “[H]ow you felt about Trump and Russia in April is pretty much how you feel about it now,” the Post said.
It may not be a surprise, but it is disappointing. I oppose most of what Mr. Trump proposes, but I am hopeful that he will be successful in a variety of ways — containment of nuclear weapons in North Korea, for example, or bringing more American manufacturers back to the United States.
The polls also showed that overall, people would advise the President to stop tweeting, clearly a futile effort.
The results were similar in NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling, which developed a survey in 439 counties in 16 states including Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin which either changed from supporting Barack Obama to Trump, or where Trump greatly outpaced Mitt Romney’s performance in 2012.
It should be noted that these polls come before adoption of any health care bill that will certainly roll back benefits for many who identify as Trump supporters.
I would advise that we all support the use of actual fact in our arguments. In the case of Russia, the “facts” will be what the FBI and Robert Mueller III come up with more than all of the punditry.