President Donald Trump is historically unpopular. As of October 15, 2017, his disapproval rating is at 56%, according to FiveThirtyEight. Compared to President Obama, Trump is faring far worse than he ever did, especially at this point in his presidency. A lot of his policies and overall composure, like his stance on healthcare or rampant Twitter use, are convincing more and more Americans that he is not doing his job. This trend carries over for NC State students too.
In a flash poll we conducted from October 2nd – October 8th, we asked NC State undergraduates for one word that comes to mind when they think about Trump. The results were exactly what you would expect. 18 respondents called Trump “incompetent”, while 18 more called him an “idiot”. Positive or neutral adjectives were few and far between. One person called him “amazing”, while another called him “perfection”. One said “paper towels”, in reference to Trump throwing paper towels to a crowd of Puerto Ricans, who had just been devastated by Hurricane Maria. For every positive attribute about Trump, there were 25 negative ones.
What factors are contributing to the attitudes NC State students have about Trump? Why do so many people think he is an idiot and incompetent? Trump’s efforts to decertify the Iran nuclear deal could eliminate any chance of a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s nuclear plan and decrease America’s legitimacy on the world stage. Trump is pushing for tax reform that will only help the top 1%, even though he campaigned on populist principles. But why do some people like him? One person in our poll called him “trustworthy”. Why is that? Trump has been caught in lies several times. Trump wants to end the Russia investigation, where he is under investigation for collusion. We can’t know for sure what people’s reasons are for still supporting Trump, it’s unlikely anything will happen to make his approval rating sink much lower. There will always be that one person in a group of 25 that has something positive to say about him.
A Toplines report for all survey questions, and results, is available here: Protester Poll Toplines
Note on methodology:
Almost 700 students were asked to take this survey and 275 completed it. However, we cannot report a margin of sampling error for this survey because our results come from on a non-probability sample. Most of our surveys adhere to the theoretical principles of probability sampling, such as when every NCSU student has a non-zero and equal chance of being randomly invited to take a survey (and nearly all we contact respond to it). Instead, only certain students were asked to take this survey.
Our result come from students who previously agreed to be sent our future surveys. In short, they chose us, non-randomly, so we can’t know for sure if they “think like” most students. If respondents are not selected according to probability theory, it isn’t possible to calculate traditional diagnostic statistics about a survey, such as the margin of sampling error.
Most industry professionals today, however, agree that the margin of sampling error is overrated for evaluating the validity of polling results; if only 20% (or less!) of students respond to an invitation to take a survey, even when they were contacted at random, the subsequent sample doesn’t conform to the assumptions of probability theory. We could present advanced statistics about the likely representativeness of our sample, but the benefit of generating those stats is outweighed by their degree of complexity.
Instead, we argue that in general we’ve learned that our panel of interested survey takers does a good job of mimicking a random sample of State students. Over the past two semesters, we’ve tested whether differences exists between results we obtain from the non-probability panel compared to a truly random draw. So far, we don’t observe significant differences of opinions asked among students contacted the different methods. Past results suggests that our results for students’ opinions about Trump are broadly representative of what most undergraduates at NCSU think about Trump.
Nevertheless, we might have overestimated NC State’s opposition towards Trump. More of our respondents call themselves “Democrat” than is probably true for all undergraduates, and Democrats express higher levels of opposition towards Trump’s presidency. Since political partisanship is a fluid attitude and not a fixed characteristic, like age, we can’t be certain about the “true” percentage of Democrats (or Republicans). Thus, without knowing more about the fixed traits of our sample (we did not ask more questions about their demographics), nor being certain our sample is “too Democratic,” we do not attempt to weight/adjust our data to known properties about NCSU undergraduates.
For additional information about best practices for reporting on the precision of non-probability sampling, you can read this guidance for how to report on results from non-probability samples.