Donald Trump loves polls. At virtually every campaign stop during his 2016 campaign Trump would champion some poll or another that showed him in first place – crushing all competitors.
“So many great polls like Reuters - big leads everywhere,” he tweeted in November 2015. “New Hampshire really special! We will win big and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
The problem for Trump is that while his love for polls hasn’t waned, the number of polls that carry any sort of good news for him have. Which forces Trump to look far and wide for any scrap of alleged data that shows people a) love him b) hate Democrats or c) love him and hate Democrats.
Which brings me to this: Twice in the last week Trump has tweeted “polls” from Breitbart News.
The first “poll” – tweeted by Trump on Monday – asked “Do you stand with President Trump?” A whopping 97.83% said they did! Just 2.17% said they did not.
The second, which Trump tweeted Thursday, asked whether House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) should “resign and be investigated.” A whopping 98.4% said yes while 1.6% said no!
Pretty overwhelming results, right?! Man, Trump is killing it! Take that, lamestream media!
Except that these Breitbart News “polls” aren’t polls at all. In fact, there are several obvious problems with them.
1) Breitbart is a conservative website. A quick glance at the headlines on the site as of Thursday afternoon turned up headlines like “11 FACTS THAT HAVE ALREADY UNRAVELED THE UKRAINE HOAX” and “FACT CHECK: PELOSI SEZ SCHIFF DIDN’T FAKE TRUMP DIALOGUE IN CONGRESS (HE DID)”
2) The questions are, uh, a little bit – how to say this – leading. Think of it like this. If I ask, “Do you, like all good Americans, love apple pie, I am likely to get a different response than if I simply ask “Do you like apple pie?” The first question will, almost certainly, elicit a much more pro-apple pie response, right? So how you word the questions matters. And the wording by Breitbart News isn’t super objective.
3) You can vote in this online “poll” as many times as you want. Which is fine! But it means it’s not a poll. Because, see, actual polls have a methodology that is aimed at producing a representative sample of the electorate. And people who come to Breitbart News and vote several times for Schiff to resign and be investigated aren’t representative of much other than being people who frequent the Breitbart News website. It’s like if I offered a poll on my personal website asking, “Do you think Chris Cillizza is great?” And then I sent it only to people I am related to and asked them to vote – a lot. Not exactly a representative sample.
Trump, of course, doesn’t care about explaining or disclosing any of these things. He sees a number that is good for him. He tweets it. He gets the feedback he wants from his echo chamber. Case closed.
He’s not going to stop. But his persistence – and cavalier attitude toward, you know, facts – don’t make these shams anything close to real polls.