A top strategist on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign and a longtime Clinton pollster says that President Trump’s approval rating is at least 5 or 6 points higher than polls currently show.
Writing at The Hill, Mark Penn says that polls showing that Trump has a 40 percent approval rating are the result of what he calls a “polling bubble.”
“Surveys taken from the perches in New York, Washington and Los Angeles may be obscuring rather than illuminating many of the underlying views and trends of the American electorate,” writes Penn, who started polling for Bill Clinton in 1994.
“While Trump is no FDR when it comes to forming a political coalition, a fairer reading of the polls and the election results shows his performance is probably 5 or 6 points better than is being touted and that his base of support with which he won the election remains intact.”
Penn offers several theories about why Trump’s poll numbers are artificially deflated.
Polls are moving in the direction of surveying all U.S. adults rather than past and future voters, he says. That shift picks up groups that are more likely to oppose Trump, such as illegal immigrants and young people. Trump’s numbers are also underestimated because respondents are hesitant to admit they support the former real estate mogul.
“Most polls have moved away from voters or likely voters to U.S. adults with no screen for registration or even citizenship,” Penn writes in the op-ed, also noting that polls frequently focus “on storylines and narratives critical of Trump.”
He says that major network polls survey “U.S. adults,” a much broader category than people who voted in the November election or who plan to vote in 2020.
“The non-voters include 11 million undocumented aliens and a lot of folks who liked neither candidate and stayed home, as well as younger people who have lower rates of participation. These polls should not be confused with the views of the American electorate.”
Penn then conducts a rough calculation of Trump’s actual support based on November voting tallies and recent favorability polls.
“If you look just at the past voters, Trump is holding his base,” Penn writes, pointing to a recent Washington Post poll that found 94 percent of Trump voters approve of the job he is doing.
“That would be 43.1 percent of the voting electorate,” Penn says.
“Trump then conservatively gets 10 percent approval from the remaining voters (30 percent from voters to other candidates and 8 percent among Clinton voters) which would give him another 5 percent or about 48 percent approval among the group that voted in the last election.”
“That’s a more realistic assessment.”
Penn also points to a phenomenon that many pundits now believe was at play during November’s race.
“The media echo chamber has, I think, made it more difficult for people to express their political views, especially to live interviewers,” Penn says.
He hypothesizes that because of a growing gender gap — women moving left on the ideological spectrum and men moving right — men may be hesitant to tell their spouses or partners their true views of Trump.
“In a recent Harvard Harris poll we did, only about 60 percent in the country now feel free enough to express their views to friends and family,” he adds.
“Consequently, it’s no surprise that polls done online show a consistently better picture for Trump than most live interviewer polling, and today reaching America through the phone is an increasingly difficult task compared to new methods available through the internet.”