Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Trump and the Birthers

There's a PPP poll out that's gotten some attention out in the wild world of cable news (and some wacky news sites).

First, overall, 44 percent of Republicans in this survey believe Barack Obama was born outside the U.S. That's higher than usual. Over half (54 percent) think Obama is Muslim. That's high too. I've written extensively, and conducted actual research, on both topics. But what's fascinated some folks is the analysis of Donald Trump supporters. I even heard this reported today on Morning Joe, thankfully with some skepticism. Here it is:

  • Sixty-one percent of Trump supporters believe Obama was born outside the U.S.
  • Sixty-six percent of Trump supporters believe Obama is Muslim.

Wow. But let's do the math. Set aside the Dems, who aren't that interesting. The survey was of 572 Republican likely primary voters. So if Trump has 29 percent, that means an N here of about 166 respondents. That's a really small number to base a result on. Indeed, if you did into the crosstabs at the bottom of the link I provided above, you'll see stuff reported for candidates with only a handful of supporters. For example, 100 percent of Jim Gilmore supporters believe Obama is Muslim. All six of them, if my math is right.

I also worry, a little, about question order effects. If the questions were asked as presented (and they may have been randomized, it's hard to tell), then the questions about Obama followed a series of questions asking if you're a member of the Tea Party or are an evangelical Christian. Could these prime a different response to the Obama birther/religion questions? Perhaps. Which may explain the somewhat inflated numbers above, but those numbers may also simply reflect a more conservative voter who participates in primaries, versus general elections.

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