Sampling Disaster: New Poll Showing Growing Opposition to Impeachment is a Fox-Skewed Mess


A new poll going around since last night has been putting a smile on the faces of two groups of people: right wing outlets and Bernie Sanders supporters.

The poll, released by Emerson Polling, purportedly shows that support for impeachment is falling, and that Trump’s approval rating has risen to a net positive. Emerson finds opposition to impeachment at 45% compared to 43% support, and it finds that Trump’s approval has jumped to 48%, with 47% disapproval. Right wing outlets like The Hill and HotAir are having a moment of celebration, pointing to the poll as proof that the impeachment hearings are working in Trump’s favor.

Emerson also finds Bernie Sanders tied with Joe Biden nationally among Democratic primary voters nationally, with each at 27% support. Leftist publications like Common Dreams are celebrating that. Subsequently, Emerson’s data has Sanders as the only candidate leading Trump in a head-to-head matchup, while Biden is behind by 2 points.

Sanders closing to a draw with Biden would be a rather large change in the state of the Democratic primary, especially because Biden has consistently polled in the 30s and Sanders has been stuck at around 15%. Polling has also consistently shown Biden in the best position against Trump in head-to-head matchups.

This is all to say nothing of the fact that actual voting patterns this month show that Trump and the Republicans are deeply unpopular, as the GOP has lost governor’s races in two southern states and Democrats have gained a trifecta in Virginia for the first time in 26 years. Actual elections have also demonstrated that pragmatic, moderate Democrats are the ones winning competitive races, not outlandish ideologues.

So where is this discrepancy in the Emerson polling coming from?

The answer is outsized oversampling of two groups of voters: Fox News viewers and third party voters.

12% of the respondents in Emerson’s sample say they voted in 2016 but not for either of the major party candidates. Remove the 8% of voters in Emerson’s poll who are new voters, and among 2016 voters in Emerson’s survey, 13% are third party voters. Hillary Clinton received 48.2% of the popular vote in 2016; Donald Trump got 46.1%. This would leave just 5.7% of actual 2016 voters who voted for someone other than Clinton or Trump, an unusually large portion of the electorate and that is unlikely to repeat.

Put another way, Emerson is oversampling third party voters by more than 2-to-1.

The oversampling of Fox viewers is even worse. A full 26% of those sampled in the Emerson poll followed the impeachment coverage on Fox News. Network news, on the other hand, constituted just 24% of respondents. An open ended authoritative survey done by the Washington Post found that just 9% of Americans trust Fox News as their primary source of coverage, and network TV outperformed cable as source of news by four-to-one in viewership.

In other words, Emerson oversampled Fox viewers by at least 3-to-1.

That explains a lot. Bernie Sanders is a favorite of anti-Democrats on the Left, so it makes sense that oversampling them by 2:1 would artificially increase his polling numbers. I am not saying Emerson did this on purpose, but if you wanted to purposely make Trump look good, you’d oversample Fox viewers - who, in addition to being Trump’s base, are also friendlier to the Sandards-Gabbard wing of the Left.

In fact, with third party voters oversampled by twice their actual impact and Fox viewers oversampled by 3:1, it should be scaring the hell out of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump that they aren’t doing much, much better in the Emerson poll.