Q&A – Impeachment Polls, What’s Real & What Isn’t

Today’s entry - You seem to be great (with) polls. Can you look into this one specific Fox poll and tell us what you think? Is it possible this poll is accurate? Could this be, "Never-Trumper" Fake News?

Bottom Line: With Congress back in session the noise surrounding impeachment will only heat up in the House. In advance of Congress returning this week, we had a slew of polls that included impeachment questions over the past week. Out of eight accredited pollsters, only two showed majorities of Americans wanting impeachment. That’s the first bit of info to be aware of, how much time was spent telling you about the 75% of polls that didn’t support impeachment compared to the 25% that did? 

But about the Fox News poll. Yes, the Fox News poll was one of the two polls suggesting support for impeachment by the majority of Americans. It especially got a lot of play because, well it’s Fox News, so media uses perceptions about the network to advance the notion that if even a Fox News poll supports impeachment, then it’s a given that Americans want it to happen. For those who’ve followed my work over the years, you know a couple of things about my use of polls. The data collected by them is useful, but simply taking them at face value and using them is generally useless. There’s almost never a perfectly sampled poll and the Fox News poll is especially absurd in its sampling.

First, it’s important to know that Fox News, nor any news network, conducts the polls themselves. They pay third parties to create them for the network. In the case of Fox News, they contract with one Democrat pollster and one Republic pollster and combine the results. The samples can still get way out of whack and that’s exactly what happened this time. The sample in the Fox News poll showing 51% of Americans supportive of impeachment had 48% Democrats, 40% Republicans and 12% Independents.

If that sounds flawed to you, it is, but it’s not as simple as saying that there aren’t even amounts of Republicans and Democrats sampled. Anytime you’re analyzing polls analytically it’s important to see what the political sampling was adjusted for the real political conditions on the ground. In the case of the much-reported Fox News impeachment polling, they sample over-sampled Democrats by 8%. Now it’s not as easy as pointing to the 8% and saying, see it’s 8% too many Democrats. There are more Americans who identify as Democrats than Republicans. That’s the next layer of understanding. 

The best way to gain an idea of what current conditions are nationally is to look at Gallup’s monthly political ID polling. Gallup has polled monthly on party ID of Americans since 2000 and as a result, provides the best real-time temperature check at any given time of political preferences. Most recently 2% more Americans ID as Democrats than Republicans. In Florida, there are 1.8% more Democrats than Republicans.

This means that the Fox News poll oversampled Democrats by six points. So, any use of this poll would have to factor in a 6% oversampling of Democrats, or 6.2% if you want to infer what Floridian’s think. What’s more, is that they didn’t break out the splits on Democrat responses vs. Republican responses to the question to be able to analytically provide you with adjusted accurate results, meaning there’s no credible way to specifically use their polling to provide a specific answer to the question. But there’s enough here to offer a general conclusion.

Based on the Fox News Poll’s oversampling of Democrats, I can empirically say that most Americans don’t support impeachment. And this exercise is an initial exercise into how to analytically use polls during election cycles and how I’ve been able to effectively use them to accurately project outcomes in elections going back to the 2000 cycle, including accurately projecting the wins for George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016. The problem with polls is taking them at face value. The information within accredited polls is still highly instructive in context.

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Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Photo by: Getty Images

 
 

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