Which Percentages, Which Bars

March 13, 2016
Posted by Jay Livingston

Whence Trumpismo, as ABC calls it (here), as though he were a Latin American dictator? Where does Trump get his support? Who are the voters that prefer Trump to the other candidates?

The latest ABC/WaPo poll, out today, has some answers. But it also has some bafflingly screwed-up ways of setting out the results. For example, the ABC write-up (by Chad Kiewiet De Jonge) says what many have been saying: “Trump’s support stems from economic discontent, particularly among working-class whites.” Appropriately, the poll asked people how they were doing economically – were they Struggling, Comfortable, or Moving Up?

That’s pretty clear: economic circumstances is the independent variable, candidate preference is the dependent variable. You compare these groups and find that Strugglers are far more likely to support Trump than were the folks who are better off. Instead, we get a chart percentaged the other way.

Instead of comparing people of different economic circumstances, it compares the supporters of the different candidates. And it doesn’t even do that correctly. If you want to compare Trump backers with Cruz, and Rubio/Kasich backers, the candidates should be the columns. (The poll merged Rubio and Kasich supporters for purposes of sample size.) Here’s the same data. Which chart is easier to interpret?

This makes the comparison a bit easier.  The margin of error is about 5 points. So Trump supporters might be somewhat more likely to see their economic circumstances as a struggle.

There’s a similar problem with their analysis of authoritarianism. “It’s also been argued that people who are predisposed to value order, obedience and respect for traditional authority tend to be strongly attracted to Trump.” But instead of comparing the very authoritarian with the less so, ABC/WaPo again compares the supporters of Trump, Cruz, and Rubio/Kasich.

Instead of telling us who authoritarians prefer, this analysis tells us which candidate’s backers have a higher proportion of authoritarians. And again, even for that, it makes the answer hard to see. Same data, different chart.

Cruz supporters, not Trumpistas, are the most authoritarian, probably because of that old time religion, the kind that emphasizes respect for one’s elders. (For more on Cruz supporters and uncompassionate Christian conservatism, see this post.)

The poll has worthwhile data, and it gets the other charts right. The pdf lists Abt SRBI and Langer Research as having done the survey and analysis. To their credit, they present a regression model of the variables that is far more sophisticated than what the popular press usually reports. But come on guys, percentage on the independent variable.

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