Monday, 4 November 2019

What Should Trump Supporters Make Of The Latest Impeachment Polling?

As polling on impeachment again dominates the news cycle, it’s worth revisiting the issue from the perspective of those who support President Trump. As I’ve noted here before, it’s important not to get too wrapped up in these polls. However, it would also be unwise to take the position that there’s no validity to any of them or the patterns they represent. Statistical sampling, done properly, IS a thing, and political types should indeed take polling seriously. However, such polls merely represent public opinion during a very specific window. Right now, a complicit, Trump-hating media is pushing impeachment like candy-flavored crack, purposefully duping many into falsely thinking that POTUS actually did something illegal and somehow deserves being removed from office.

That said, though there is definitely an entrenched percentage of the population that would hate the Bad Orange Man even if he personally wrote them a check for a million dollars each, I believe the national opinion isn’t quite as ‘anti-Trump’ as the media would have us believe. Last month, I wrote about how Fox News’ “bogus” impeachment poll essentially shifted the national narrative - unfairly - to that of a majority of Americans supporting the impeachment and removal of President Trump from office. The problem, as I and many others saw it, was the fact that this poll and others like it failed to control for political party identification, thus almost always under-sampling Republicans. 

According to Gallup, 31 percent of Americans identify as Democrats, 29 percent identify as Republicans, and almost 4 out of 10, or 38 percent, identify as Independents. So, if polls want to give an honest assessment, it would seem logical to think they should control for political party identification with as much gusto as they control for other factors such as race, education, age, etc. Instead, the official “Fox News Poll Methodology Statement” says: “Generally, weights are only applied to age, race, education, and area variables. The Fox News Poll is not weighted by political party.”

Instead, what we generally get is Democrats, for whatever reason, being polled and/or responding to polling at a significantly higher rate than Republicans. Last month, 48 percent of Fox News’ poll respondents identified as Democrats and 40 percent were Republicans. That’s an eight percent difference, with only the remaining 12 percent Independent. The mid-October result on impeachment? 51 percent, or a newsworthy national majority, wanted Trump impeached and removed from office.

This month, Fox News’ latest poll had a similar sample, albeit a slightly different, but significant, outcome. This time, Democrats outnumbered Republicans statistically to the tune of 49 percent to 41 percent, with Independents making up the rest. That’s still an eight percentage point difference. Of the Independents who did make it into this poll, those who do not favor Trump being impeached and removed from office lead those who do by a significant gap, at 47 to 38 percent. As for the non-independents, party identification pretty much dominates how respondents feel about the question of impeachment, with an overwhelming percentage of Republicans wanting to keep the president in office and a similarly overwhelming percentage of Democrats wanting to see him gone. But as many of Trump’s defenders have pointed out, Democrats have been wanting to see Trump gone since January 2017. So, that’s nothing new.

But Fox News isn’t alone. The recently-released NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had a similarly distributed sample. In that poll, 43 percent of respondents identified as a Democrat while only 35 percent identified as Republican. In that poll, 14 percent were “Strong Independent” and another 8 percent weren’t sure. It also found 49 percent backing Trump’s impeachment and removal.

Besides the sample weighting, I also continue to take issue with the line of questioning, and it’s worth mentioning again. To sum up what I expressed last time: To ask “Should President Donald Trump be impeached and removed from office?” - as most of these polls do in some form or another - is unfair to the seriousness of the process, in my opinion. Impeachment is one thing. It’s done in the House of Representatives and is currently being done in a completely partisan manner by House Democrats. But removing a president from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors” is a Senate function. Might there be some who want to see him impeached as a sort of punishment or check, but think tearing the country apart by removing a sitting president and essentially undoing the 2016 election is a bridge too far? It’s quite likely, but we won’t find out with any of these polling methods.

“I have the real polls,” Trump said Sunday in response to the polling news, calling the Fox News polls “lousy” and saying they should “get themselves a new pollster.” Maybe he’s referring to internal polling, but still, it’s a pretty safe bet that a vast majority of Democrats want the president removed. But again, that’s no different than the landscape looked the moment he assumed office. 

In truth, President Trump doesn’t need to win the impeachment polling wars, as long as he wins the impeachment vote in the Senate. He doesn’t need to win the approval ratings either, or even a majority of voters, as long as he wins the electoral college in November 2020.

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