This past summer, two pollsters working on President Donald Trump’s campaign were fired after negative data on his re-election chances leaked out to the public.
After the pollster purge happened, only two of Trump’s campaign pollsters remained, CNN reported in June. One of them, John McLaughlin, has just published data from a new poll his organization conducted, and perhaps not surprisingly it shows positive numbers for Trump.
However, as the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake noted on Friday, the questions included in the poll that were asked of respondents were flawed, worded in ways that would skew the results under the best of circumstances.
For example, one question asked those taking part in the poll whether they believed it was right for Democrats to buck tradition with regards to the impeachment inquiry.
“Historic precedent has always been that to begin an impeachment inquiry the House of Representatives has always held a vote,” the poll question begins. “Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are now breaking with precedent to conduct a purely partisan impeachment. In your opinion do you think that unless Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats hold a vote, the President is right NOT to cooperate with this inquiry?”
A plurality of respondents, 47 percent, said there should be a vote, while a third said a vote wasn’t necessary.
There’s just one problem: the poll’s premise is wrong. Impeachment proceedings for presidents — there’s only been two started in the past century — have indeed held a vote within the full House. But impeachments for judges, which have been more numerous over the years, haven’t always required such votes, New York Magazine noted. Additionally, there’s no law or statute that requires impeachment inquiries to being in such a manner.
Another question in the poll was even more disingenuous. That question began this way:
“Impeaching President Trump is a waste of time and tax dollars and it will ultimately go nowhere, so the Democrats should focus on working with Republicans to solve our nation’s problems rather than focusing on trying to impeach President Trump.”
Fifty-nine percent said that they agreed with that statement, while 33 percent said they disagreed.
Blake took issue with this question in particular, noting that the question was loaded with questionable premises. Blake also ignored realities in Congress that existed before impeachment began.
“The question, of course, ignores the fact that Congress was gridlocked regardless of impeachment, so it’s kind of a false choice,” he wrote in his column Friday. “And very few people are going to disagree with the idea that Congress should focus on curing the nation’s ills.”
"Privately, White House officials concede they are losing the messaging battle with Democrats…" https://t.co/o3fyfXKnBz
— David Gura (@davidgura) October 25, 2019
The polling that McLaughlin put forward may best be described as a “push poll” — polling that puts forward a false premise to participants rather than a legitimate question, which can be used to skew the results or, in some cases, skew the opinions of respondents themselves. A notable example of a push poll occurred in 2000, when the campaign of former President George W. Bush put out a poll asking if people’s opinions of John McCain might change if they knew he fathered an illegitimate black child.
The question was itself dirty politics: beyond its racist overtones, McCain had been campaigning with his adoptive daughter, Bridget, on the trail with him, who has noticeably darker skin color than the late senator, as she was born in Bangladesh, The Nation reported.
The poll from McLaughlin may not be a push poll in the same sense, but it still could be viewed as changing the viewpoints of respondents with negatively-worded language biased against impeachment…which may be part of the plan by Trump in the long-run.
Indeed, after the poll was released and shared on social media by Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft, Trump retweeted the journalist’s comments, sharing the results of the unreliable poll to millions of users on Twitter.
Most polls without such loaded language have shown that support for impeaching Trump sits at around 50 percent, on average, according to FiveThirtyEight. A recent Quinnipiac poll found similar numbers, with even more Americans (55 percent) supportive of the impeachment inquiry proceeding forward.