Donald Trump isn’t a happy camper. Earlier today, news broke that Dr. Carson had overtaken Mr. Trump in a national poll. To make matters worse, Mr. Trump called into Morning Joe on MSNBC, where he didn’t get the kid glove treatment. It started when Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Politics asked Mr. Trump “When you’re ahead of the polls you cite them, you act like they’re scientific gospel. When we see polls where you’re behind, sometimes you’ll challenge the pollster, the organization, the methodology, the legitimacy of the poll. How do you justify or explain attacking polls where you’re behind but celebrating polls when you’re ahead?”
Then Mr. Trump incoherently replied “Well, I think you have to understand polls. I believe in polls, I generally believe in polls. The thing with these polls, they’re all so different, they’re coming from all over the lot where one guy’s up here and somebody else is up there or you see swings of 10 and 12 points and you know, like, immediately, the same day. So right now it’s not very scientific.”
In other words, Mr. Trump trusts polls when he’s leading but he doesn’t trust them when he isn’t leading. That’s one of the most incoherent replies he’s made.
When Mr. Trump said that “these polls, they’re all so different”, he might as well have said ‘I don’t get it. I was leading all summer and most of this fall but I’m not anymore. What happened?” When Mr. Trump said “they’re coming from all over the lot where one guy’s up here and somebody else is up there”, he isn’t being accurate. The Iowa polls from last week all showed pretty much the same thing: that Dr. Carson had taken the lead in Iowa away from Mr. Trump.
As for the statement that he’d seen “swings of 10 and 12 points” and that they were from “the same day”, it’s obvious that he’s spinning. The Quinnipiac Poll came out on Thursday. The Des Moines Register-Bloomberg Politics Poll was published Friday. The results from the Monmouth Poll were released over the weekend. The national CBS-New York Times Poll was published this morning.
It’s true that these polls came out in a relatively short period of time but there’s nothing haphazard about them. The Quinnipiac Poll and the Des Moines Register polls have outstanding track records in terms of accuracy.
It’s worth noting an unflattering similarity that President Obama and Mr. Trump share. President Obama frequently has said that he welcomes all reasonable ideas on legislation. Then he rejects reasonable ideas on legislation that Congress is working on. When he does that, he frequently ridicules the person’s motives or their honesty.
How is that different than Mr. Trump saying that polls are legitimate when he’s got a huge lead but that they’re unscientific when he falls from first place? That might work with his supporters but it’s an insult to the professionals who’ve been conducting the Quinnipiac Poll and the Des Moines Register polls for years.