The Survey Trump's Team Just Sent out Shows the Problem With Polling

March 24th 2017

An email sent out by Trump HQ is receiving criticism from the Twitterverse over the inclusion of a poorly designed poll, a screenshot of which was posted by author and artist Molly Crabapple.

Glaringly, there is no real option to oppose Trump. 

Either the user has to support the president or admit that they are guilty of believing "fake news." Indeed, if a user clicks on that option, siding with Democrats, they are directed to this handy informational page: 

But it's not really meant to be a survey at all. 

After answering the questions, users are taken to a donation page for the Trump campaign: 

It's important to note that the poll isn't a legitimate scientific study, but rather a means to drive donations. What it does highlight, however, is a more serious issue: how answers to polls can be skewed by phrasing questions to get the answers you want.

Take this example, as outlined by the Pew Research Center: "When people were asked whether they would 'favor or oppose taking military action in Iraq to end Saddam Hussein’s rule,' 68 percent said they favored military action while 25 percent said they opposed military action. However, when asked whether they would 'favor or oppose taking military action in Iraq to end Saddam Hussein’s rule even if it meant that U.S. forces might suffer thousands of casualties,' responses were dramatically different; only 43 percent said they favored military action, while 48 percent said they opposed it."

Another example: in 2010, Fox News polled Delaware residents, asking them, “All in all, would you rather have bigger government that provides more services or smaller government that provides fewer services?”

Fox News StoreMitchell Laurren-Ring - huffingtonpost.com

The problem with this question is clear: "big government" is a derogatory buzzword among conservatives. Its inclusion in the survey, then, is designed to point the survey takers to the "correct" response. David Wilson, writing in the Huffington Post about the Fox poll, noted that "consumers of poll data should hold a healthy skepticism about the popular interpretations of poll numbers presented on television, in papers and online blogs, and on the radio."

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