Monday, March 18, 2019

How To Confuse With A Poll

The new USAA poll finds that

Amid signs that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference may be near its conclusion, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds that trust in Mueller has eroded and half of Americans agree with President Donald Trump's contention that he has been the victim of a "witch hunt."
 Bolds are mine.

Here is the actual question that tells us half of Americans agree with Trump's contention that he has been the victim of a "witch hunt":

Table Q20 Page 1520. President Trump has called the Special Counsel ́s investigation a “witch hunt”and said he ́s been subjected to more investigations than previous presidents because of politics. Do you agree?

Bolds are mine.

Now that question, my friends, is an example of how NOT to frame polling questions.

It is, in one sense, asking agreement or disagreement with  two Trump assertions, the two separated by the word "and."

Suppose you want to answer "no" to the first question and "yes" to the second question.  Well, you can't!  You have to agree or disagree with the whole quote.

But the second question, asking if Trump has been subjected more investigations than previous presidents, clearly has a big part which is true.  He has been investigated more than previous presidents.

Whether someone thinks the reason is in his politics or in the fact that he is a rather corrupt man or both, it's still true that there have been many investigations.

It's not correct to conclude from those answers that half of Americans agree with the first part of Trump's statement, the one about a witch hunt.  The respondents may have chosen agreement to the whole question because there is a truthful bit in the second part.

In sum, that question was formulated very poorly.  It should have been split into two separate questions.