Donald Trump Polls May Underestimate His Support From College Educated Voters

Pres. candidate Donald Trump

Donald Trump polls better with shy college-educated voters and voters generally when they express their preference anonymously, a new survey indicates, which suggests that opinion polls may be underestimating the support for his White House bid.

These findings run directly counter to recent CNN/ORC data claiming that the GOP front-runner’s supporters are largely less college-educated. Parenthetically, a college diploma may or may not be an indicator of wisdom.

A phenomenon called social desirability bias may explain the differential: “people being reluctant to select Trump when talking to another person because they do not believe it will be viewed as a socially acceptable decision.” In other words, they may be ashamed to reveal their true feelings.

According to most polls, which may or may not be accurate as recent elections have demonstrated, Trump still consistently leads the Republican field nationally and in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, while U.S. Senator Ted Cruz currently is ahead in projections for the Iowa Caucuses.

According to the New York Times, Team Trump lacks a robust field organization/ground game in Iowa necessary for the get-out-the vote effort.

In a study with about 2,500 Republican and Republican-leaning respondents that was released today, however, opinion polling and market research firm Morning Consult concluded that Republican and Independent voters may be reluctant or perhaps embarrassed/shamed to admit actually backing the New York business mogul and ex-Celebrity Apprentice star in a phone interview. An online poll is another matter.

Respondents were randomly assigned to answer the presidential preference survey on landline or cellphone with a human operator, via interactive response on the phone, or online.

“The study finds that Trump performs about six percentage points better online than via live telephone interviewing and that his advantage online is driven by adults with higher levels of education. Importantly, the differences between online and live telephone persist even when examining only highly engaged voters.”

In terms of percentages in above-referenced survey, Trump garnered 38 percent support from voters in the online poll as opposed to 36 percent in the interactive voice response and 32 percent from those who talked to a live pollster at a call center.

Given the massive amount of media coverage, most of it negative, that Trump receives for his politically incorrect statements and policies, some potential primary voters may be reluctant to reveal their actual election 2016 choice in a real-time telephone conversation with a live human. “Adults with higher levels of formal education appear to exhibit the largest mode effects in Trump’s favor online, whereas adults with high school degrees or less tend to favor Trump on the phone compared with online.”

Separately, a Fox News poll found that 50 percent of voters favor Trump’s controversial temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. (rising to 55 percent when Trump’s name is detached from the proposal — 45 percent among Democrats without Trump’s name mentioned).

In reporting on the Morning Consult survey, the Los Angeles Times observed that Iowa Caucus-goers having to vote in public may similarly be detrimental to Donald Trump.

“Blue-collar voters don’t feel embarrassed about supporting Trump, who is very popular in their communities, the pollsters suggested. But many college-educated Republicans may hesitate to admit their attraction to Trump, the experiment indicates.In a public setting such as the Iowa caucuses, where people identify their candidate preference in front of friends and neighbors, that same social-desirability bias may hold sway. But in most primaries, where voters cast a secret ballot, the study’s finding suggests that anonymous online surveys — the ones that typically show Trump with a larger lead — provide the more accurate measure of his backing.”

“It’s our sense that a lot of polls are under-reporting Trump’s overall support,” Morning Consult polling director Kyle Dropp told the Times.

In an article discussing whether Trump’s primary vote share is overestimated — as some political pundits and rivals contend — or underestimated, The New Yorker noted that the bombastic businessman who was himself a former Democrat and Independent appeals to an electorate outside of the traditional GOP base.

“In some states, voters in the GOP contests don’t need to have registered previously as Republicans…The other factor to consider is that some Republicans may be reluctant to tell pollsters that they are supporting Trump.”

“[Trump’s] success online could indicate deeper support for his candidacy than polls currently suggest…[but] if If some Iowans are already too embarrassed to share their true thoughts to a call-center operator, imagine how they’ll feel telling their neighbors,” The Atlantic theorized about the upcoming Iowa Caucus.

With many variables in play, do you think that Donald Trump polling data overestimates or underestimates how much support he actually enjoys among the electorate both in the upcoming primaries and potentially for the November general election?

[Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP]