Friday, May 25, 2018
Politics

PunditFact: Do 71 percent of Obama voters regret voting for him in 2012? Nope

For President Barack Obama's opponents, word of his latest downfall was stunning and welcome.

Headlines and tweets all said just about the same eyebrow-raising thing: "Poll: 71% of Obama supporters 'regret' voting for his reelection."

The purported statistic from a YouGov.com poll was the focus of a Washington Examiner post last week that spread quickly through conservative blogs, social media, radio and online forums. Tweets about the news by big guns like Fox & Friends and various accounts with smaller reach were hard to miss.

But the news is wrong. PunditFact, a Tampa Bay Times project to fact-check the talking heads, is here to explain. Let's start at the beginning.

YouGov.com did not even mention the news about regretful Obama voters in its Feb. 17 report of a new poll.

The story that accompanied the poll, headlined "Mitt Romney's phantom campaign," explored whether Romney is viewed more favorably ahead of the 2016 presidential election given more positive media buzz about a Netflix documentary about him. (The answer, based on their polling data, is not really.)

YouGov polled about 1,000 voters over two days in early February, asking voters for Romney and Obama if they would make the same decision today that they did in November 2012. YouGov found 90 percent of Romney voters would vote for Romney again, while 79 percent of Obama voters said they would stick with Obama.

Of the remaining 2012 Obama voters, 10 percent said they would not vote for him again, and 11 percent said they were unsure. The 10 percent who would not vote for him again got a follow-up question: Do you regret voting for Obama?

Of 35 people in that group, 25 said yes. That's 71 percent.

In the eyes of YouGov assistant editor William Jordan, this was not worth mentioning in the original report.

"We did not think it surprising that the small number of voters who said they would no longer vote for Obama now regretted voting for him," he said.

The next day, Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard published a story (since updated) that picked up on the people who said they regret voting for Obama.

"Over seven in 10 Obama voters, and 55 percent of Democrats, regret voting for President Obama's re-election in 2012, according to a new Economist/YouGov.com poll," he wrote. (The Economist has collaborated with YouGov in past polls, but not this one.)

Those words sprung to life, appearing on the Drudge Report, spreading across Twitter, and landing on sites like TeaParty.org and World Net Daily. It seeped into partisan radio broadcasts, including on Rush Limbaugh's show, and even a San Diego morning TV show.

Conservative blog Hot Air was the exception. It urged its readers to ignore stories about the 71 percent statistic.

Why? YouGov, while correctly reporting its sample sizes and percentages in its tables, left off an important disclaimer in describing who got the question. No one realized it until someone asked about it the day after posting the results.

The description about the "regrets" question should have said, "Asked of those who reported voting for Barack Obama in 2012 but would not vote for him if the election was held again."

Instead it said, "Asked of those who voted for Barack Obama in 2012." That language suggests a sample size of 396 voters, not 35.

"The 71 percent who regretted voting for Obama, which was picked up by various media outlets, is of the 3.5 percent (35 of 999 respondents) of the sample who said they voted for Obama in 2012 and would not vote for him today," Jordan said.

YouGov fixed its truncated filter. Bedard, at the Examiner, rewrote parts of his story and changed the headline to "Poll: Only 79% of Obama voters would vote for him again."

But there's no recall button for bad information on the Internet.

Surveys require a great deal of attention from pollsters and reporters alike, especially ones with political overtones, said Karlyn Bowman, a polling analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. As the sample size shrinks, the margin of error rate expands.

Point being, while the overall YouGov poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points, the question about regret would have a much higher margin of error.

"You've got to be really careful when you're looking at subsamples of subsamples of subsamples," Bowman said.

In this case, that didn't happen. We rate this claim Pants on Fire.

Read more rulings at PunditFact.com.

 
Comments
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18