Many newspapers reported information that gave comfort to Democrats in their confrontation with Republicans over shutting down the government, touting a poll that showed a combined 48 percent of voters blamed either Trump or Republicans in Congress for the shutdown, while only 35 percent blamed Democrats.
Breaking it down, 34 percent blamed Trump, 15 percent blamed congressional Republicans, and 35 percent blamed Democrats. Yes, 34 and 15 add up to 49 percent, not 48 percent – I assume we are either dealing with numbers being rounded or English majors who can’t do math.
Here’s the problem, and it’s one that should have been evident to unbiased pollsters. Voters are being given three choices, not two. That makes it less likely that they are going to choose any one of the three, whatever the choice or question. And so fewer than might have chose Democrats as being the ones to blame than Trump or Republicans – who should have been grouped together in the poll since they are taking the same stance on the issue. That is, it should have been an “either/or” question, not “choose one of the three.”
In fact, that’s exactly what Gallup did back in 2011 when Congress and the president, then Barack Obama, were facing a government shutdown. Gallup properly combined Obama and the Democrats.
Were the question framed properly in the most recent poll, which was done over the weekend, the result might still have given Democrats an edge, but it might not have. That is suggested by another question in the poll, which I haven’t seen mentioned, that asked voters who was to blame for the failure to pass a spending bill that caused the shutdown. In that case, voters were given only two choices: Republicans in the Senate or Democrats in the Senate. Thirty-nine percent blamed Democrats, and 37 percent blamed Republicans.