Last week, Pew Research Center released a poll that claimed that a majority of Americans — 59% — approve of President Joe Biden’s job performance as he nears 100 days in office.
“The poll found Biden’s job approval is up 5 percentage points from 54 percent in March, while 39 percent of those surveyed said they disapprove of his work thus far,” The Hill added.
“Views of Biden and his administration highlight several stark contrasts with opinions of his predecessor,” Pew added. “Far more Americans say they like the way Biden conducts himself as president (46%) than say they don’t (27%), while another 27% have mixed feelings about his conduct. Similarly, 44% say he has changed the tone of political debate for the better, while 29% say he has made the tone of debate worse (27% say he has not changed it much).”
However, critics quickly pointed out on Twitter that the poll appeared to oversample Democrats.
In total, the poll’s unweighted sample size was 5,109 participants. 1,706 were Republicans or leaned Republican (33.4%); 3,253 were Democrats or leaned Democrat (63.8%).
The Pew Research Center explains the necessity of oversampling, saying that “Newcomers to polling sometimes assume that if you are asking Americans questions about politics, it’s only fair to include an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. While this notion makes some sense on the surface, it’s based on a misunderstanding of what polling is intended to do.”
“The goal of a national political survey isn’t to artificially even the playing field,” Pew continued. “It’s to represent groups in their actual proportions within the country. And a wide range of evidence shows that there are more Democrats than Republicans in the United States today.”
According to Pew, “Among the general public, recent Pew Research Center telephone surveys find that Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents outnumber Republicans and Republican leaners by about 7 percentage points,” while “Among registered voters, the Democratic advantage in party affiliation is typically about 3 percentage points smaller than it is among the general public in our surveys.”
In addition, Pew also explained in a different post that “oversampling is used to study small groups, not bias poll results.”
“Oversampling is the practice of selecting respondents so that some groups make up a larger share of the survey sample than they do in the population. Oversampling small groups can be difficult and costly, but it allows polls to shed light on groups that would otherwise be too small to report on,” Pew stated.
However, the argument that Democrats make up 65.5% of the general public or likely voters, compared to 34.5% of Republicans, is more extreme than this 2019 explanation of oversampling strategies suggests.
According to Gallup, the most recent polling indicates that 25% of the general public identify as Republican, while 41% identify as Independents and 32% as Democrat. These values fall within the general 7 percent range given by Pew when discussing oversampling but fall far outside the apparent 30 percent difference used in their unweighted sample sizes to conclude that Biden has a 59 percent approval rating.
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