Monday, August 15, 2016

Pew survey establishes Trump supporters more willing to express support for him in online polls

By Kevin “Coach” Collins

The Pew Institute has done extensive research on the differences between how people respond in self-generated online polls and those that require answering questions posed by another person. This is a topic well worth pursuing; but to make sure each step of this inquiry rests on solid ground an important point from another Pew survey must be considered.

In 2014 Pew released the results of a study that focused on the percentage of people who were responding to pollsters’ calls. Pew found that in 1997 36% of its attempts at securing a respondent resulted in a willing participant in their surveys. It further reported that by 2012 that number had declined to 31% but thereafter sharply dropped to just 8% in 2014.  A political analyst commenting on this finding said, “The problem is simple but daunting. The foundation of opinion research has historically been the ability to draw a random sample of the population. That’s become much harder to do.”  Keep that in mind.

This begs a logical question: If pollsters have to make 100 calls in order to find 8 people willing to answer questions isn’t it quite possible that some would fall to the temptation to cut corners and re-call people they know will participate and answer in a certain way?   

Last December, Pew interviewed 2,397 registered Republicans and Republican leaning Independents using various means of conducting their interviews. About 1/3 answered questions about Donald Trump and other Republican primary candidates online. Another 1/3 answered questions posed by a live interviewer via telephone and the last 1/3 answered the same questions via automated voice response questioning. The finds were as follows.

Thirty eight percent of the internet respondents supported Trump. Thirty six percent answering automated voice questions supported Trump but 32% said the same when questioned by a live interviewer.  By way of comparison those asked about Ted Cruz and Ben Carson--who were under media fire during that period--did just 2% better online than with live interviewers. Most significantly the support numbers for Jeb Bush who was never attacked by the media did not vary regardless of the questioning method used.   

Of still more importance was the finding that Trump gathered 10% more support from college graduated respondents when they answered online. Moreover, among engaged respondents who are regular voters “Trump’s advantage in online polls. “.. compared with live telephone polling [Trump] has a spread of eight to nine percentage points[more support] among these engaged voters.”

Applying hindsight to the question of how much hidden strength Trump has brings us to the fact that ultimately he won the Republican primary rather handily and did so with an undeniable amount of Democrat support in the numerous states that allow “cross over voting.”  This elicits the question: How many Democrats refuse to tell pollsters they are voting for Trump?   

Pew asks and answers the question of why Trump does better in “anonymous” online polls with the suggestion that this is due to the “social desirability bias,” factor. This forces reluctance to be honest in answering because the respondent believes he/she would be viewed as a making a socially unacceptable choice by declaring support for Trump.

It is worth noting that since December the number of attacks on Trump, and by extension those who support him, have grown exponentially and if this factor was true last December it is enormously more true today.

The executive summary of the Pew survey holds some very encouraging news for Trump.

“[This study] also builds on an authoritative report by the Pew Research Center demonstrating that there can be striking differences between self-administered and internet-administered surveys.

“Much work remains to better understand which types of polls are actually right in predicting Trump’s support levels, but a key implication of the study is that many national polls may be underestimating Trump’s support levels.” Finally, the study suggests that divergent findings in online and phone polling are at least partly explained by adults answering identical questions differently online versus on the phone, that is, a social desirability bias in which respondents answer questions in a manner they believe will be viewed favorably by others.”

Follow Coach on twitter at KcoachcCoach and check out Coach’s latest book The Dirty Locked Away History of the Democrat Party at available in Ebook and hard copy.


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