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Fox News deceives through methodology on impeachment poll

Is Fox News playing with the poll numbers regarding impeachment? A look at the methodology and the samples lends considerable weight to that allegation.

The news network released a major story Wednesday that asserts 51% of registered voters now favor impeachment of President Donald Trump. Unfortunately, that number is highly dubious based on one major flaw, at least one questionable outcome and yet another potentially fatal flaw.

Present Trump Thursday tweeted his own doubts about the poll and how it manipulated the numbers.

Fox conducted the poll October 6–8 in conjunction with Beacon Rsearch and Shaw & Company. It includes interviews with 1,003 “randomly chosen registered” voters nationwide who spoke with live interviewers on both landlines and cellphones.

The poll results showed a “new high of 51 percent” wants Trump impeached and removed from office, another 4 percent want him impeached but not removed, and 40 percent oppose impeachment altogether. Fox News reports that in July, 42 percent favored impeachment and removal and 45 percent opposed impeachment.

Biased methodology

First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Fox’s sample included 48% Democrats, 40% Republicans and just 12% Independents. That distribution is typical of many polls in that they greatly oversample Democrats and under sample groups favorable to Republican policies or outcomes. Even independents are favorable to those policies.

Oversampling Democrats, who support impeachment at the tune of 85% and under-sampling independents who support it at only 39% makes a huge difference in the poll outcomes.

We know from voter registration data (and the most recent Gallup poll) that the actual distribution of party affiliation is 31% Democrat, 29% Republican and a whopping 38% Independents.

Gallup poll of party affiliation, Sept. 2019

2019 Sep 3-15313829


The Fox News poll’s methodology skewed the numbers:

2019 Oct 6-8481240

So, what’s a more accurate number of those favoring impeachment?

And so, if we make the assumption that had the poll accurately sampled the real distribution in the population and apply the same percentages of favorable and unfavorable across the board, the number supporting President Trump’s removal from office drops to 44.94%, still a large number, but not a majority. The number of people who impose any form of action against the President would be 44.43%.

But the poll’s problems don’t end there. According to other polls, Trump’s policies are supported by Republicans in the high 80s to 92 percentile range. How then is it that 82% think he should not be impeached and another 4% responded that they didn’t know and yet every Republican who remains is so opposed to their own President that they want him removed from office? No wiggle room at all in that group? “I like the President’s policies, but I want him removed from office.” Really, that’s a believable outcome?

Show me the data

Finally, while the folks doing the poll tell us what their sample size was, no where do they give us raw data, only percentages. That begs the question of just how high the response rate was for this poll. The response rate, i.e. the percentage of people sampled who actually respond, determines the confidence we have in any given poll. And so Fox doesn’t inform as to how many of those initial 1033 people, that is supposed to represent the entire country, actually responded. They tell us they have great confidence in the poll, so why not provide the raw data? How many responded? 500? 200? 900? We simply don’t know other than they tell us that they have great confidence in a poll we now know to be heavily biased.

They tell us that they selected representative samples from each state, but those numbers are also not provided, nor are the response rates for each state.

The bottom line is that a heavily biased poll gave us false conclusions based on a biased sample and Fox News ran with it as their leading story on Thursday.

And that very deceptive poll is what some are using to push an impeachment narrative on a distracted American public. Whatever happened to “Fair and Balanced?”

–Opinion by Dwight Widaman and John Altevogt