Indulging My Confirmation Bias….

Oh come on–we all do it. Call it “cherry picking” or “confirmation bias” or just closed-mindedness, most of us scan information sources for items that tell us what we want to hear.

As the Trump Administration continues its daily assault on reason, ethics and democracy, and as evidence continues to emerge confirming its rampant criminality, the lack of movement in the polls becomes more and more worrisome. At, the average of polls measuring Presidential approval has shown virtually no change for months; some 54% disapprove and around 40% still approve.

I know that even the most sophisticated pollsters encounter all kinds of problems–and that too much reliance on their results is misleading. Figuring out which voters have cell phones or landlines, the dramatic decline in response rates, difficulty in determining the identity of likely voters (especially in atypical times), and other methodological challenges make polling a fraught exercise.

That said, the thought that four out of ten Americans actually approve of Trump’s performance is terrifying.( I know that level of approval is considered abysmally low historically, but this is not a “normal” horrible President.)

So when I saw this headline on a post at May be Even More Unpopular Than His Approval Ratings Show–  I immediately clicked on it.

Polls have consistently shown that President Trump is pretty unpopular, with only about 42 percent of the American public approving of the job he is doing as president. These numbers are much lower than what one might expect given the bustling economy.

But does the standard presidential approval question actually capture what voters think of Trump’s job performance? There are several reasons it might not tell the full story. For one, in this hyper-partisan era, presidential approval numbers have become increasingly polarized and don’t move around all that much, so they may now say more about which “side” people are on (pro-Trump or anti-Trump, Republican or Democrat) than voters’ actual evaluation of how the president is doing.

In order to get what they described as a “more nuanced” result, the pollsters asked respondents to rank their feelings for Trump relative to other notable Republicans, rather than asking people whether they approve or disapprove of the president. The other Republicans they chose were former President George W. Bush, the late Sen. John McCain, McCain’s former running mate Sarah Palin, Vice President Mike Pence, and former President Ronald Reagan.

The results were comforting.

This is now our second survey where we’ve measured Trump’s favorability among likely voters, and in both surveys, we found that the standard presidential approval question may be overestimating Trump’s popularity. Our first survey was conducted before the 2018 midterm elections (July 3 to July 12) and our second survey was conducted soon after the Dec. 18 House vote that formally impeached the president (Dec. 20 to Dec. 22), but in both instances, likely voters rated Trump toward the bottom of our list of Republicans.

Before the midterms, Trump’s favorability rating was statistically indistinguishable from Pence’s, and only Palin was rated less favorably. Following impeachment, Trump was even lower relative to the other Republicans we asked about. Not only is he the least popular president to run for reelection since Gerald Ford according to polls asking the standard presidential approval question, but in our measure, he is now also rated less favorably than his vice president. He’s also essentially tied with Palin for the least favorable Republican on our list.

There was, as expected, a significant partisan split. But among independents thought to be potential swing voters, Trump ranked at the bottom of the list — statistically tied with both Palin and Pence. As the pollsters concluded:

The bottom line is that the president appears even more unpopular than previously thought, and more disliked than the standard presidential approval question is able to reveal. Although the electoral implications of Trump’s unpopularity and impeachment remain to be seen, the data we do have isn’t promising for Trump.

The survey confirms my strong belief that November will be all about turnout. If Democrats  get enough people to the polls to overcome predictable vote suppression efforts and other dirty tricks, we will rid America of the criminal cabal that is currently enriching itself while it trashes the environment, democracy, and the rule of law.


  1. My “Confirmation Bias” was firmly clamped against Trump more than 20 years ago; today it includes his family, his revolving door administration (including those who exited) and the Republicans in House and Senate who are determined to keep him in the White House. I am not ashamed of this bias; while using the term “Republican” the current Impeachment Trial is not political; it is firmly based in criminal acts and a total lack of humanitarianism now rampant in this government. The so-called “Trump defense” yesterday, as in his legal team’s earlier “defense”, insults the intelligence of thinking Americans of all political, religious, racial, ethnic and gender persuasion. Trump’s indelible blot will never be removed from this nation’s escutcheon; will we have the fortitude to overcome his deconstruction of government, loss of Rule of Law and shredding of our Constitution?

    But that is just me, “Indulging My Confirmation Bias”!

  2. JoAnn,

    I agree with your comments completely. The Trump followers are all-in cultists in the cult of “everybody is against me” – “the freeloaders are living off my tax dollars” – those damn Messicans are stealing our jobs”, etc., etc. They bought the con job. Meanwhile, the rich and the corporations, who pay any taxes at all, are into an effective tax rate of 11%. How is Joe Six-Pak doing on that number.

    Fiscal responsibility? Intelligent budgeting? Nope. They want to spend another $3 trillion on defense while our bridges collapse, our roads turn back into goat tracks and our schools start resembling those in East Africa. These things are what makes the cult so solidly in line with the cult leader. They’s swallowed the hook, and, even if they were inclined to do so, can’t spit it out.

    Our mistake is confusing the Trump-ites with Republicans. The Republican party has been overrun with chickenshit, corrupt and lying oath breakers. Why are they so afraid to speak the truth? They’re afraid that Trump will sic the AR-15 knunkledraggers on them or, worse, get them primaried by a Breitbart lip strummer.

    That is just my take on why the polls aren’t changing. The con man in chief said only one thing truthful in the last 3-4 years (It seems like a century): “I can shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and wouldn’t lose any votes.” That’s what con men/cult leaders become.

  3. Unless 538 has changed its operating techniques, it doesn’t do polls itself, but instead, collects the results of other polls, strips out questions (and the responses) it finds useful and combines them. In that regard it is like a “meta-analysis,” which is often more accurate than any of the individual polls, because it is based on a larger and more diverse population.

    But the “preference analysis” described here may be something they would do. It certainly is clever – and the results are hopeful.

  4. From everything I’ve ever encountered about cults, the people in them don’t understand that they are in a cult and if asked, they will deny that they are.

    Maybe the true problem isn’t politics per se, but the fact that the human brain is so susceptible to being programmed by others.

    Maybe someday, if our species survives that long, someone will create a vaccine to counter or immunize. Won’t hold my breath though.

  5. Sheila,
    Your daily Don Quixote jousts into the truth of our times are refreshing and I thank you!

    Most certainly I hope the elections are about both turnout and turnaround.

    We are in unmapped territory and as I glance at those politically active marching in this time I wonder if we have prepared ourselves for the ultimate test of democracy:

    Does any one voter out there think our President and his followers will leave office willingly?
    What do we do when his legal team upends an election in which he loses as just another unwarranted attack on ‘them?’

    I am optimistic about this country’s future but make no mistake it’s future will not be decided at the ballot box, but rather individuals standing for the meaning of Democracy, not the meaning of elections or ballots or laws.

    This is a true test of our system. Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

  6. Terry Franzman, There is a vaccine. It’s called “education”. Unfortunately, we are a society overwhelmed with anti-vaxxers.

  7. i believe the 40% of bubbas will approve,my thoughts after talking about the economy and world affairs,i find the conservitives,those of 50 or better,are questioning trumps behavior.
    his ongoing tyraids over minial issues,and general BS has finallly made a toll on his person. generally those ive spoke with still have a eye for their neoleader. but down inside i believe hes lived out his existance. budda is still bigot one for the freak show,and shows no understanding of goverment,or could care less about a clown who has many times since being throned,embarrassed us in these eyes of the world..this is where the fairy tale and merry go round stops.pompeo has finally shown his colors,NPR,interview,and his side meeting with Terry…his other band of maurauders are just the plastic on the white house lawn.if bubba looses their buddy,im sure we will never hear the end of the conspiracy stuff. the demos threw in the towel..they should have impeached mcconnel and grahm..for dereliction of duty,and sought to have the whole republican side censored..yea i know,good luck, but they do have the dried ink on the roll call…lets call it what it is…mutiny….and our nation the wishes…im with bubba in texas for a few days…BBQ!

  8. I read an article a couple of days ago that said only 53% of Bernie supporters responded that they will vote for the Democratic nominee, if it’s not Bernie. If that turns out to be true, then 45 gets a second term and four more years to degrade the Federal Bench and likely at least one more SCOTUS appointee. That’s the bad news for liberty. Additionally, he’ll have more time to pollute our air and water. That’s the bad news for life. He will begin taking away from Social Security, Medicare, and the ACA. That’s the bad news for the pursuit of happiness. Makes me wonder what Jefferson and Madison would think.

  9. Just because your team/favorite celeb is nasty and cheats, it doesn’t mean you won’t root (vote) for them.

  10. Let’s hope the DNC doesn’t read the same polls and interprets the results to mean the strategy of “vote blue no matter who” will beat Trump in November.

    Based on the opinion hit pieces against progressives, I suspect the establishment is getting very nervous about the polls on the other side of the aisle. They were hoping they could hold out Uncle Joe, and all would be well.

    The DNC meddled in the 2016 election and got caught. Our intelligence community blamed it all on Russia, but the 35 and under crowd didn’t listen to CNN — they went to Wikileaks directly and read what happened. Did the shake-up at the DNC convince anyone?

    Only the Boomers who watch CNN and MSNBC.

    If the DNC is looking at those who dislike Trump and counting on those people to pull the D lever, they will once again overlook Middle America who’s been getting clobbered by 40 years of Neoliberalism.

    If turnout is needed, we better not let the establishment (Oligarchy) pick the candidates because they will choose two candidates where they win either way. The rigged two-party system guarantees a victory for them. They may be embarrassed over Trump, but they’ve received one victory after another over the past four years and will do whatever it takes to keep the money and power on their side.

    Oligarchy-controlled media is just getting started…it’s a long way till November.

  11. I wonder how many of those poll responders publicly acknowledge their true opinions. We see every indication that they love what the clown show, find it entertaining as in “that’ll show those uppity SOBs”. Their actions will always be driven by self-delusion/righteousness as they gloat about how insulting and elite all others are to their brand of willfull ignorance and folly.

    There is also a social price to pay for going against the cultural current of their various communities, whether religious, business or familial. Many would rather disengage than confront, especially when faced with vicious hostility. They will stay home and hunker down when the sh*t hits the fan.

  12. The short-fingered vulgarian doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly popular or have a high approval rating. He has to have just enough of both in a few key states on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. He’s discovered the corollary to Lincoln’s famous adage: You can fool enough of the people at just the right time.

  13. Big economies are like supertankers; it takes a long time to turn them around, as the drunk skipper of a supertanker found in Prince William Sound, Valdez, Alaska, several years ago. Thus Obama inherited Bush’s Great Recession which ran through his first term into his second before his policies started us on the road to recovery.

    Trump is now bragging about how his “policies” are responsible for our booming economy, too dumb and racist to admit that this economy is not his, but aside from his Trump-Ryan tax giveaway to the rich and corporate class of December, 2017, which has pumped up both our long term and annual debt > a Boom for Whom, Don? Yes, Obama’s economy is booming, but only for the rich and corporate class and not those who are saddled with a minimum wage that hasn’t been raised for over ten years, those who are working multiple jobs to keep their heads above water, not those who represent 41 percent of all bankruptcy filings due to inability to pay medical and pill bills, and not those formerly middle class people who (due to the housing crisis) are sleeping in the front rooms of relatives, or worse, on the sidewalks. So to reiterate: Boom for whom, Don?

    Personally, I wouldn’t care if we had an economy where the median wage was $500 an hour, where we had single payer healthcare and Yang’s subsidies on steroids;Trump would have to go, and why? He is a moral risk and a mortal threat to our democracy, which is priceless and not for sale at any price. Ever.

  14. Perhaps our steady diet of entertainment has affected our cognitive ability resulting in a focus on what others do compared to what I do. Think of how dangerous a transition that would be for democracy. It would mean that we believe our role as a we the people is to study the flickering screens and what Orwell called “loudspeakers” and find revealed what we collectively will do thus excusing us individually from doing anything.

    One thing that seems will result from that transition are artifacts like Trump as President because our information chain leaves us open for manipulation by those who pay for our “free” entertainment. Like Putin for instance. Or the RNC. Or oligarchs. Or extreme capitalists. Or cults. Or corporations.

    Clearly it’s impossible for any of us to wean ourselves completely from the potential for cult-ivation from those sources. Without them we’d just be uninformed rather than misinformed. What we need to learn is a newer higher level of critical thinking as distinct from the bias confirmation that, as Sheila writes today, is a universal human condition. One of the things that this renewal of critical thinking would remind us is that what we individually do matters. We each can change the world or at least contribute to a collective effort to do so. Anomalies like Trump are the result of individuals doing what they can do including buying and producing advertising/fake news/propaganda/brainwashing. While that may not be my role, I still matter. Or, more specifically, what I chose to do, not just think, will matter.

    I’ve said before that what I will choose to do is to vote blue no matter who. That’s something but not everything I can do certainly.

  15. As a committed geek one of the things in my crystal ball is the rise of transportation as a personal service. That’s been around for a long time of course and has been resurrected lately by Uber and Lyft but what I’m talking about is it becoming the pervasive replacement for privately owned automobiles which just will no longer be able to compete with it say over the next two decades thanks to robotic technology like autonomous vehicles.

    One of the fallouts from that could well be the final death of free entertainment. How is that connected? Pay attention to who pays for our free entertainment now. You’ll see that it’s primarily automobile companies and slip and fall lawyers and fuel companies all of which will be disappearing from the landscape in my envisioned future.

    How will that shape politics?

  16. Dan:
    Thanks for the link to Ezra Klein’s essay in the NY Times concerning the roots and reasons for our current polarization divide. After having just read it, I think Klein’s analysis has hit the nail precisely on the head, and it is outright frightening to me.

    Klein pinpoints — correctly IMO — that the “Republicans'” continued control of and lock on — with or without Trump — the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court, even though they consistently receive less overall votes than Democrats, is a virtually certainty going forward because of systematic flaws in the Constitution, i.e., primarily the Electoral College method of selecting a President rather than by popular vote, and the fact that each State gets 2 Senators regardless of the fact the majority of the population is concentrated in about 15 States. Also throw in Gerrymandering, some voter suppression, and the fact that many voters predisposed to the Democratic party and agenda are far less likely to vote than “Republican” voters. All that has allowed the “Republicans” to win elections with the support of the older, White, right-wing, Christian voters, who actually represent a minority of the total voters in this Country.

    What is frightening about Klein’s conclusions — as been observed and discussed here before — is that as long as the “Republicans” are in control of virtually all branches of the Federal Government, as well as most of the Governorships and State Legislatures, the reforms that could change those flaws will never happen because the “Republicans” rightly know that it will mean the end of their ability to win elections, and their power and ability to control the Federal Government.

    As Klein predicts, the prospect of 30 % of the population being able to continuously control the wants, needs and desires of 70% of the population is a formula for political disaster for the Country. The question — left unanswered by Klein — is how do the majority of the population move forward to have the type of progressive Country that the majority wants?

    My somewhat pessimistic view is that the best we can do at this moment is to vote as many of the current “Republicans” out of as many offices as can be accomplished in the November elections. If that happens, which is by no means a certainty, we might be able to staunch the bleeding, if not cure the patient. I’m still hoping that someone among the remaining Democratic candidates will catch fire as Obama eventually did in 2008, but we’re not seeing that happen yet. Maybe rural and White Iowa and predominately White New Hampshire voters will propel that candidate forward. We shall soon find out.

  17. The way I see it, from Face Book and other social media, there are three tiers to the Trumpet’s support.

    The first tier is the very wealthy, millionaires, billionaires and large corporations that benefited hugely from the Trumpet’s tax cuts, huge defense spending and environmental policies. These people and corporations could care less about social and cultural issues. However, they do not have the votes. So this first tier has to rely on the next two tiers to produce sufficient voting power.

    The second tier is the NRA types who view any type of firearms control as an attack. The Trumpet has made it clear he will follow in lock step with the NRA.

    The third tier, which probably contains most of the second tier are the Evangelical and other Conservative religious types. The Trumpet proudly proclaims his “Pro-Life” position. The Trumpet correctly points out he is appointing “Pro-Life” judges. I suspect these judges will favor Big Business over the environment, tax dollars for religious schools.

    Both the second and third tier love his bombastic approach of attacking anyone who opposes him – the perfect Male-Macho-Authoritarian. No matter how much The Trumpet and his underlings like Pompeo become unhinged the base eats it up and asks for more.

  18. Sheila, (providing democrats get out sufficient voters)”…we will rid America of the criminal cabal that is currently enriching itself while it trashes the environment, democracy, and the rule of law”

    I don’t think so. We may rid the elected ranks of such ilk, but it will still exist in a powerful form, as it always has. And one way or another such ilk will likely defeat/obstruct progressive reforms. Don’t you think it dangerous to set false end game markers for the common everyday progressive?

    I think winning the 2020 election is merely the FIRST shot of a bitter war, and we best not pause to celebrate nor drop our guard for one minute. Rather we should consolidate our victories and prepare to defend every fledgling new policy against eccentric/irregular counterattacks from “the ilk”.

  19. My apologies if this point has already been made, skimmed the above comments! What this poll should also show is that there would be support for republicans if they stood up to Trump! They could do the right thing! I Have thought that if the party denounced him the remaining moderate and reasonably minded republicans would follow their party over Trump! They don’t have to be cowards!

  20. Peggy – If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination and half of the Bernie voters stay home, or prove that they really don’t support Democratic Socialism by voting third party, the Democrats still win — IF they run the campaign like it’s 2018. Plus, I expect Bloomberg and Streyer to spend some money to blast ads – every 10 minutes? – especially in Florida and Arizona, repeating Trump’s plans for Social Security and Medicare. We don’t need the Jill Stein people; we need big turnout in the African-American community and elsewhere.

    David P Freund – I like Ezra Klein; I respect his intellect, but — its BALDERDASH.

    The media pundits all believe that America is a vast land of Reagan Democrats, who are happy with the destruction of the unions, the slow rollback of the social safety net, and catering to business while redistributing the wealth of America from the middle class to the rich.

    Sorry, America has for decades been center left – if you leave labels off, they prefer social security, universal healthcare and government taking care of the people (as long as you don’t call Medicare and such “government programs”).

    Secondly, the Democratic Party has not “moved to the left” as the Republicans moved to the right. Clinton ran to the right declaring that the era of big government was over and denigrated “liberals”. He ended “welfare as we know it” and put a five year limit on benefits. Obama, whom I strongly supported, was center right and only slightly better. He said the “liberals” were well meaning, but foolish and didn’t deserve a seat at the table, his ACA was from the Heritage Foundation, and his recovery program showed more concern for the rich Wall Street denizens than for the common American.

    It is so easy and so “even handed” to say “both sides”, but I have this weird belief in objective reality – it doesn’t match Klein’s view of the country or the Democratic Party.

    This is not to say that he couldn’t be correct in his solution. Such things happen, but if you look at history (and I have been politically active for over 50 years), the party of Clinton/Obama is well to the right of the party of FDR/JFK/LBJ. Bernie’s platform is FDR’s Second Bill of Rights – not that radical. LBJ’s War on Poverty came from Michael Harrington, one of the founders of Democratic Socialism.

    My take is that the ideal candidate would not cater to the mythical “middle” (which as currently defined is pro-Wall Street, don’t fix anything, maybe improve the ACA) and find the middle between the two wings of the party. They need someone who inspires hope through proposing big change, but does so in the mode of “this is the next step in our journey as Democrats – nothing crazy here”.

    IMNSHO – Biden is too much a “don’t change a thing” person; Bernie is a strident, scare everybody, revolution now person (important to have around to propose ideas); Klobuchar is a “this is a show trial – I dutifully condemn all of those who are to the left of me as dangerous radicals (a shame, I used to like her, even though she is way to the right of me). This leaves Warren, Yang, and Pete. Sorry, but I don’t really think that business people are a solution. Government ain’t business, nor is it the military (we have a mixed record on elected Generals).
    We will see if Pete or Elizabeth gain traction. I don’t always get my wish, but I will support any Democratic nominee.

    BTW – For all of the moaning of the Democrats not having a “person of color” in the last debate, it is pretty amazing to me that mostly without remark, the top four contenders include a woman, a gay man and a nominal Jew. If we add a fifth, that would probably be an Asian American (I am ignoring the billionaires for the moment, although I do love Bloomberg’s ads, just not him).

    Finishing on the main topic, I have always thought that the polls were over-estimating Trump’s support, but until I see evidence, I will have to say it’s just a gut feeling – waiting for that confirmation bias. 8)>

Comments are closed.