As media outlets rushed to report recent polls showing Americans favor an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, a closer examination of those polls reveals far more about their bias.
It first should be noted that it is expected that after weeks of the media blasting headlines about Trump’s alleged crimes and violations it comes as no surprise that polls indicate Americans also think Trump has committed crimes. Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson went a step further, diving into the CBS poll, which showed a majority of Americans favored the impeachment of Trump.
Attkisson looked into the poll for her column at The Hill, and discovered that while a majority did claim they favored an impeachment inquiry into Trump (55% to 45%), the poll overly sampled Democrats.
“A check of the poll data shows it interviewed 124 more Democrats than Republicans. That’s a statistically significant difference — 6 percentage points more Democrats than Republicans,” Attkisson wrote. “Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Democrats and Republicans generally respond along party lines, a sample that looked at 6 percentage points more Republicans instead of Democrats would blow the ‘headline’ that ‘a majority of Americans’ favors the impeachment inquiry. It would, theoretically, change the pro-impeachment inquiry majority to a minority: 49 percent favoring the impeachment inquiry, and 51 percent opposing.”
The former CBS reported said a more accurate headline for the poll was, “Majority of Americans in Democrat-heavy poll favor an impeachment inquiry into President Trump.”
Left out of the headlines were other statistics from the poll. From Attkisson:
The CBS poll shows 58 percent say Trump does not deserve to be impeached or that it’s “too soon to say.” Using the same math as above, adjust that for the lopsided number of Democrats interviewed and it would theoretically become 64 percent believing that Trump doesn’t deserve impeachment or it’s too soon to know.
Then, 69 percent of Republicans who were asked about an impeachment inquiry say it makes them want to defend Trump. In other words, there is reason to believe the inquiry could be a motivational factor for Republicans in an election year — in a way that benefits Trump.
The poll also showed a majority of respondents thought the impeachment inquiry would be “better for Democrats” in 2020, but again, as Attkisson noted, this number would flip if the poll were slanted toward Republicans as it was toward Democrats.
Finally, Attkisson pointed out, a majority from each party – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – said they believed the “primary goal of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is to ‘politically damage Donald Trump’s presidency and his reelection.’”
Of course, this doesn’t mean everything is looking positive for Trump, but as Attkisson concluded: “we already are seeing the continuation of a trend that proved problematic in 2015 and 2016: polls being used to try to shape public opinion, rather than to measure it.”
Then again, polls oversampled Democrats in 2012 yet President Barack Obama still beat GOP candidate Mitt Romney, but that may have had more to do with incumbent bias than poll bias.