Trump Trumpets Single Outlier Poll and Falls into Confirmation Bias Trap

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August 3, 2018

Yesterday, on Twitter and presumably in person to everyone he met, President Trump promoted the results of a Rasmussen Poll which, on the surface, showed a 50% approval rating.

While, clearly something he would be proud of, it neglects to mention several important facts.  First off, the graphic doesn’t tell the full story.  The report from Rasmussen also includes this important little tidbit:

The latest figures include 35% who Strongly Approve of the way Trump is performing and 41% who Strongly Disapprove. This gives him a Presidential Approval Index rating of -6

This is an relevant contextual fact, but anyone can understand why he wouldn’t mention that in his tweet.  Most likely, he never read that far into the report, if he read it himself at all.  The entire story was probably not included in his “Good News Folder” which twice daily feeds Trump’s insatiable inner narcissist with carefully curated positive headlines.  The tweet itself was probably authored by his communication team and shown to him immediately prior to publication.  The tweet, like all of his tweets, are assembled purely for the consumption of his most ardent supporters, they are not designed to pull more people into his tent, and if they are then they are failing miserably.

It is also important to consider that this particular survey by Rasmussen, while it shows some internal consistency to other Rasmussen polls, stands as an outlier to nearly every other polling organization with recent results.

july polls

It also shows a striking reversal of trends from Gallup’s daily tracking:

gallup daily july

Now, this possibly be due to the source itself.  Analysis has shown that Rasmussen’s polling exhibits a consistent republican bias.  It could also be a result of differing methodology, offering participants an opportunity to answer on more of a semantic differential scale, rather than a forced-binary scale of approve vs disapprove.

Regardless of the reason for the difference in polling results, it is the fact that Trump, and by extension his supporters, are falling into the trap of confirmation bias.  Only accepting the results which confirm that which you already believe.  It is part of the bigger picture of the continuous gaslighting the citizenry into thinking that everything is great, and everybody loves President Trump and the country is not on the verge of collapsing onto itself in a twisted heap of conspiratorial hoaxes, compromised institutions and constitutional crisis.

So, what will happen next week if even his beloved Rasmussen polls slip?  He will simply ignore them, pretend they never happened.  Of course, if they continue to trend downwards maybe he will go back to discrediting polls as some sort of “media rigging”.

It’s a very simple world for President Trump, just pick and choose what facts to believe, what surveys are valid, what news reports are true, and convince your followers to do the same.

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