Pollsters appear to be making the same mistake they made in 2016

Mark Penn:
This disconnect could be happening all over again. Take a look, for example, at the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll for July. It’s very professional and a generally accurate poll. Look at what it found this month: Trump’s approval rating edged up 1 point and his “strong approval” went up 3 points. His personal image improved several points. The congressional horserace closed 4 points in the direction of Republicans.

Yet, the rest of the poll documents how people want more immigration, want to continue the Robert Mueller investigation, see tariffs as increasing prices for consumers and, of course, that Trump was too friendly to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The headlines on NBC screamed negative clickbait, while the poll shows Trump and the Republicans advancing. The more intense support for Trump was attributed by one of the pollsters to Trump’s attacks on the press.

Notice a disconnect between the polls and the people? The questions focus on the anti-Trump storyline as though the point of the questions is to prove the validity of that coverage. Except for a single query about Trump’s performance on the economy, the rest of the questions are framed in ways that would lead any reader to believe everything the president does is wrong and opposed by the public. Some of it is. But not to the extent depicted. That’s the danger in polls that miss the full story.

Look at the questions on immigration. NBC asked if people think immigration helps or hurts the country and found that 56 percent think immigration is helpful. It also asked people to rate Trump in his “treatment of immigrants and their families” — a question I have never seen before — to capitalize on the separation of children, which we already know was overwhelming disapproved by 88 percent in a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll.

But the questions ignore the heart of the issue: The battle is not over immigration per se but over illegal immigration. The public is quite sour on illegal immigration. Yet, you rarely if ever see a fair question on sanctuary city policies, which 84 percent oppose in the last Harvard CAPS/Harris poll. Or on chain migration or on immigration lotteries.

The real picture on immigration, especially in those areas of the country that have experienced lost jobs, is that many people believe illegal immigration reduced their wages. Despite compassion for those who are already here, most voters have low tolerance for continued illegal immigration, and most believe even legal immigration should be limited below current levels. Yet, none of those key points that depict two sides of this very emotional issue comes through in the questions asked.

Next, let’s look at the questions on tariffs. They find that most people don’t like tariffs and think they raise prices more than they help workers. But while pointing out that the prices people pay could be higher, the questions gloss over potential concentrated benefits to people in the most distressed areas of the country who have lost jobs in the last decade while coastal areas boomed. Nor do they ask if people think the tariffs are a good idea if used as a bargaining chip for better trade deals....
Also ignored is the disapproval rate for Democrats which is around 56 percent.  There is a disconnect between that number and the generic ballot that goes unexplained.   Penn makes an excellent point on the immigration issue.  If the questions were properly framed the media and the Democrats would be deeply disappointed at the results.


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