The polling industry has taken a beating since November’s election because state-level polls and forecasts based on them didn’t indicate Donald Trump would win enough electoral votes to secure the presidency. But he did ― and in the aftermath, many have asked why we should still invest in or pay attention to polls.
The president himself has provided the answer. In an interview with RealClearPolitics, White House press secretary Sean Spicer revealed that Trump consumes polling information with gusto, sometimes telling his advisers about the data before they see it themselves.
That means Americans have a direct avenue to getting their voices heard by the president. Answering a phone call or an email to respond to poll questions is more important now than ever ― it might be the quickest way to have your opinion heard in the Oval Office.
Spicer confirmed to RCP that Trump sees both positive and negative polling data. Of course, he likely dismisses polls that don’t look good for him as “phony” or “rigged,” but the fact that he even looks at the data is at least a partial win for Americans and the polling industry.
And, even if he does dismiss some polls as flawed or dishonest, the fact that Trump still consumes polling data as much as he did during the campaign shows that ultimately he believes this information represents the people’s views. That means polls provide a powerful direct link from Americans’ voices to the president of the United States.
Given Trump’s poll obsession, we need pollsters to do their best possible work at representing Americans’ views. Journalists need to highlight the most credible results ― because the more we cover a poll, the more likely it is to end up on Trump’s desk. Report on the fairly conducted polls, not ones that are slanted or pushed toward a certain outcome. Polls conducted by neutral groups and that provide all the information about how they were done are the most reliable.
And Americans need to use this tool in their arsenal. There are many ways to make your voice heard: Since Trump’s election we’ve seen massive protests, higher donations to the American Civil Liberties Union and upticks in phone calls to members of Congress about Trump’s nominees and policies.
We now know that polls are equally important. Answer the phone or email when a pollster contacts you and give them your opinions. Those numbers are getting to Trump’s desk.