04/04/2017 08:17 am ET

Are President Trump's Supporters Embarrassed To Tell Pollsters They Like Him?

A new study tests the differences between online and phone surveys -- and finds little evidence of an effect.
Carlos Barria / Reuters

Pew Research delves into the possibility of a mode effect on President Trump’s ratings. Americans don’t trust public opinion polling...according to a new poll. And almost nobody likes a new law rolling back online privacy rules. This is HuffPollster for Tuesday, April 4, 2017.

TESTING WHETHER PHONE POLLS UNDERSTATE TRUMP’S SUPPORT - Pew Research: “Five months after Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, public opinion polls find him with the lowest approval ratings of any president in modern history at this stage of a presidency. Given the criticism of election polling in 2016, it is reasonable to ask if public opinion polls are understating support for Trump and his policies. Survey watchers have posited several theories for why election polls, and by extension post-election surveys, might underestimate backing for Trump. This report tackles one of the most common of these: the supposition that some people may be reluctant to tell an interviewer that they approve of Trump’s job performance or policy proposals due to the fact that he remains a polarizing figure.” [Pew]

Online and phone surveys draw ‘substantively equivalent’ results - To test whether people are less likely to admit their support for Trump when an interviewer is listening, Pew ran an experiment, asking the same set of questions both by phone and through a web survey. The outcome: “Overall, the survey experiment did not find significant mode differences in overall opinion about Trump or many of his signature policy positions….[N]ot all differences were in the direction one might expect based on the theory that people conceal their support for Trump and his policies in telephone interviews….The two items that showed the largest difference between web and phone both focused on the policy treatment of undocumented immigrants....While no single study is definitive, these results strongly suggest that live interviewer telephone polls obtain results that are substantively equivalent to those in self-administered online polls on measures of opinion about Trump and his key policy positions.”

Pew Research

Differences by party - More from Pew: “A look into which parts of the public were more or less affected by the mode shows that – on the questions examined – mode generally had a more pronounced effect on the responses from Republicans than on the responses from Democrats. It seems likely that this finding is specific to the policy and favorability questions asked in this study. There is no reason to conclude that mode effects are always going to be larger among people identifying with one particular political party.”

Pew Research

AMERICANS DON’T TRUST PUBLIC OPINION POLLING - HuffPollster, with Natalie Jackson: “Polling has been struggling with an image problem following some high profile pre-election problems in recent years, so it’s little surprise that more than half of Americans don’t trust public opinion polls. A new McClatchy/Marist poll finds that only 37 percent of registered voters have a great deal or a good amount of trust in public opinion polling. Only seven percent say they have a great deal of trust in comparison to 22 percent of voters who don’t trust polling at all and 38 percent who don’t trust it very much. Democrats have more confidence in public opinion measures than other groups, with 47 percent saying they have ‘a great deal’ or ‘a good amount’ of trust in opinion polls. Only 26 percent of Republicans agree, though, with 73 percent saying they don’t trust polling ‘very much’ or even ‘at all.’ Independent voters echo the overall views.” [HuffPost]

Why that’s not an argument for abandoning surveys - More from HuffPollster: “Critics point to Brexit polls, which mostly indicated that staying in the European Union would eke out a narrow victory in the U.K. referendum last year, and to the U.S. state-level polls that failed to indicate President Donald Trump would win in enough key states to take the Electoral College majority and win the presidency. In light of these recent issues and known difficulties in identifying who will turn out to vote ― a key source of uncertainty in the election polling enterprise ― more skepticism by the public and the media regarding election polls is probably warranted. But even with extra skepticism about election polls, there’s no other measure that can give us a broad view of what the public thinks. Plus, most polls on public policy don’t have the same issue of trying to identify who will vote, so measuring opinion in this case is much simpler.” [HuffPost]

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S APPROVAL RATING IS HISTORICALLY BAD - HuffPollster: “Gallup’s latest poll, issued Friday, shows 38 percent of American adults approve of the job Trump is doing as president, and 56 percent disapprove. That’s comparable to some of the ratings his predecessors saw. But what’s different is the timing. It took far more than a year before presidents from Ronald Reagan through Barack Obama earned the disapproval of a majority of the public, according to Gallup. It took Trump just over a week….At this point in George W. Bush’s presidency, his approval rating was around 53 percent in Gallup’s average. It didn’t sink to 40 percent until after Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina…. Obama had a 61 percent approval rating on day 68 of his presidency. The first time he reached 40 percent was on day 950 of his presidency, in August of 2011. At no point did Obama receive a rating of below 40 percent. President Bill Clinton entered his third month in office with a 52 percent approval rating. By the time he slipped to 39 percent, he’d faced a sexual harassment lawsuit, signed controversial trade bills and seen his party cede Congress to the Republicans…. As Gallup Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport notes, while historical comparisons do Trump no favors, there’s also historical precedent for a possible recovery.” [HuffPost]

PRESIDENT TRUMP JUST SIGNED A BILL THAT BASICALLY EVERYONE HATES - HuffPollster: “President Donald Trump signed a bill on Monday that repeals rules that would have banned telecom and cable companies from sharing customers’ personal information, including web browsing history, without their consent.  But the vast majority of Americans—including Trump supporters—don’t think internet service providers should be allowed to share customers’ sensitive data without their permission at all, according to a HuffPost/YouGov survey published Monday. Prior to the president signing the bill into law, nearly three-fourths of Republicans and Democrats said they wanted him to veto it….[J]ust 6 percent of Americans think ISPs should be allowed to share such ‘sensitive’ data without permission, and 83 percent oppose the concept, according to the HuffPost/YouGov poll. The objection crosses party lines, with more than 80 percent of Democrats, Republicans, and independents all saying ISPs shouldn’t be allowed to share customers’ browsing history and other personal information without permission. Polarization being what it is, it’s rare for any political issue to face such an overwhelming rejection. For comparison, the deeply unpopular GOP health care bill topped out at just 52 percent opposition in HuffPost/YouGov’s polling, even after its demise.” [HuffPost]

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TUESDAY’S ‘OUTLIERS’ - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

 -Dante Chinni finds President Trump gaining approval in working-class counties, but losing support in military communities. [WSJ]

 -Marist poll finds “cracks forming” in Trump’s Republican base. [Marist]

 -Harry Enten breaks down what Georgia’s special election does ― and doesn’t ― say about the midterms. [538]

 -Amy Walter sees potential midterm danger for Republicans in the GOP’s intra-party fighting. [Cook Political Report]

 -Aaron Bycoffe finds Republican senators to be “unusually unified.” [538]

 -Bruce Stokes writes that Americans’ views of the economy have reached a post-financial crisis high. [Pew]

 -Joe Erbentraut reports on the public’s increasing concern about water safety. [HuffPost]

 -Aaron Blake notes an increasingly wide partisan divide in views of black Americans. [WashPost]

 -Most Americans think women in leadership roles have to work harder than men. [Harris]

 -In New York, Yankees fans outnumber Mets fans.  [Quinnipiac]