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‘New Poll Spells Doom For Democrats in the 2022 Midterm Elections’

Claim

Polling data from April 2021 indicated that the Democratic Party had little chance of victory in the 2022 U.S. midterm elections.

Rating

Decontextualized

Reporting

On April 27 2021, Trendolizer.com featured a TrendingPolitics.com item titled “UH OH: New Poll Spells Doom For Democrats In The 2022 Midterm Elections” for much of the day — purportedly reporting unfavorable polling data then-recently gathered, and beginning:

There is renewed hope that America may soon be saved from Nancy Pelosi’s reign of terror according to a new poll showing that the Democrats are likely to lose control of the House Of Representatives next year [in 2022].

Despite losing seats in November’s elections [in 2020], Pelosi has doubled down on extremism with her entire caucus unified behind pushing through Joe Biden’s radical agenda. This agenda includes D.C. statehood, new voting laws that will imperial election integrity, sweeping new “domestic terrorism” legislation that would unleash the government on Trump supporters and the illegal immigration disaster.

Those positions do not have support according to the survey conducted by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) that shows that Pelosi is by far the most unpopular politician in the country and her party is widely despised.

According to a memo released by NRCC, voters in “ticket-splitting” districts that went for Trump; “Democrats in these districts are going to have an uphill battle defending their decisions to vote in lockstep with Pelosi’s socialist agenda.”

Although the headline described a “poll,” the body of the blog post first mentioned a “memo”; the text also veered into hyperpartisan, run-on sentences like:

There is also the matter of the Democrats’ support of the violent race riots that have terrorized Americans most recently seen when Rep. Maxine Waters traveled to Minneapolis to encourage rioting and looting right before the verdict in the George Floyd murder trial and Rep. Rashida Tlab’s call for eliminating the police who she accused of engaging in “government funded’ murder.

Pollsters FiveThirtyEight.com did not include NRCC in their pollster rankings. Ballotpedia described the NRCC not as a polling organization, but as a political committee:

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is a national 527 group and subsidiary of the Republican Party that aims to build and maintain a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives through contributions to Republican candidates and political organizations. The group is headquartered in Washington, D.C.[1][2]

The NRCC’s website describes it as “a political committee devoted to increasing the number of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.”[1] As of April 2021, the NRCC chairman is Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.).

TrendingPolitics.com linked to an April 26 2021 National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) press release, “NEW POLLING: Voters reject Democrats’ socialist agenda.” It read:

The NRCC released a memo outlining its most recent internal polling of battleground districts across the country.

Four key takeaways from the memo:

  • Nancy Pelosi remains the most unpopular politician in the country, and has somehow gotten even more unpopular. In February, Pelosi had a 41% favorable – 52% unfavorable rating. Since then, Pelosi’s image has dropped a net seven points to 38% favorable – 56% unfavorable.
  • Democrats’ signature piece of legislation, a partisan COVID bill, is coming up small. A majority (57%) of voters do not believe that President Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus is helping them and their family.
  • Americans are alarmed by the reality of Democrats’ open borders agenda. Seventy five percent (75%) of voters see the border situation as a crisis or a major problem. Just 23% say the situation at the border is a minor problem or not a problem at all.
  • If Democrats pass a massive tax increase and climate change bill disguised as an infrastructure plan, it will doom them with Independents. 72% of Independents are less likely to vote for “a Democrat who supports two trillion dollars in wasteful spending that funds Democrat pet projects without any accountability or transparency for how the money is spent.”

Nowhere in the press release did the word “midterm” appear, and it largely focused on voters’ purported rejection of the “Democrats’ socialist agenda.” The NRCC linked to a “memo” [PDF] with the subject line “NRCC April [2021] Battleground Congressional District Survey.”

Clicking through led to a three page-long document, on which the words “midterm” and “poll” were both absent. Moreover, the purported data veered well into speculation territory. It contained four primary categories and attendant bullet points:

1. Nancy Pelosi has found a way to become even more unpopular …

2. Democrats have staked the Biden Presidency and their Congressional majority on the economy… and Republicans have the advantage …

3. Voters understand that Democrats created a crisis at the southern border …

4. Support for Republicans will only grow as voters learn about Democrats’ wasteful spending …

On the third and final page of the PDF, text explained of the survey:

This survey was conducted April 18-21, 2021 among N=1,000 voters across 85 Battleground Congressional Districts, including an oversample in the 16 ticket-splitting districts, with 65% of the interviews conducted via cell phone, 15% via landline and 20% online.

A search for the survey and its questions returned only one result, the same memo on which the text appeared. No information about the survey itself or demographic detail about those surveyed was made available by the NRCC — and the NRCC did not seem to have emphasized the 2022 midterms in their survey.

Furthermore, quoted portions seemed to indicate poll questions were phrased in a highly partisan fashion, and with often speculative conclusions:

Pelosi hits 60% unfavorable in Trump/Democratic districts. Democrats in these districts are going to have an uphill battle defending their decisions to vote in lockstep with Pelosi’s socialist agenda.

Republicans continue to be in position to flip the House. In ticket-splitting districts, 54% want “a Republican who will be a check-and-balance to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats’ agenda in Congress” while just 41% want “a Democrat who will help Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats pass their agenda in Congress.”

… 68% of Independents are less likely to vote for “a Democrat who voted for a bloated and expensive infrastructure bill that could cost the United States one million jobs in the first two years.”

In terms of reliable polling, MPR News published a February 2020 article, “How to tell if a political poll is credible.” Two of five “ask these questions” bullet points were relevant to the framing of the survey on partisan sites:

Who funded it? Advocacy groups and those affiliated with campaigns obviously have a stake in the outcome, so news organizations often ignore their poll results, or write about them only after giving them a high level of scrutiny.

[…]

What does the poll ask? A credible survey will usually provide access to the original questions and at least the basic “topline” results.

In August 2020, Pew Research advised:

Transparency in how a poll was conducted is associated with better accuracy. The polling industry has several platforms and initiatives aimed at promoting transparency in how polls are conducted, including the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s Transparency Initiative and the Roper Center archive. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver found that polling firms participating in these organizations have less error on average than those that don’t. Participation in these transparency efforts does not guarantee that a poll is rigorous, but it is undoubtedly a positive signal. Transparency in polling means disclosing essential information including the poll’s sponsor, data collection firm, where and how participants were selected and the mode of interview, field dates, sample size, question wording and weighting procedures.

In October 2009, FiveThirtyEight.com published an article (“Reality Check: NY-23 Poll May Seek to Alter, Not Reflect, Reality”), which observed of a similarly-structured poll at the time that it was “a bit disturbing how credulously the conservative blogs, most of whom are rooting for Hoffman, are taking this poll.”

In that piece, author and polling pundit Nate Silver wrote in part:

— The poll was released at a time when the NRCC, which has endorsed Scozzafava, is defending its position by citing the polling evidence, and so the incentive to put out some contrary evidence to alter the inflection of the media narrative is quite high.

[…]

— Previous polls put out by Basswood Research and the Club for Growth in this race featured highly leading question wording, although that does not appear to be the case here.

A separate FiveThirtyEight.com piece from July 2020, “Polls Policy And FAQs,” indicated that partisan pollsters are marked with an asterisk when cited on the site. NRCC’s rare appearances included the asterisk.

Finally, a July 2019 MinnPost.com column about the NRCC’s press releases reported:

I’ve been building a file of NRCC press releases over the last month or two. Of course we don’t look for political neutrality — nor much respect for factuality or fairness — in press releases from such a partisan political body. (The NRCC is chaired, by the way, by Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer).

NRCC uses the word “socialist” in pretty much every press release to describe the particular Dem under attack and generally assigns an unflattering nickname to every Democratic House member or candidate, as the guy in the White House does. Sometimes it throws the S-word even at moderate liberals like Minnesota’s freshman Rep. Dean Phillips. Its latest attack on him said: “In the latest example of his socialist extremism, Dean Phillips just voted to jeopardize the safety of our troops both at home and abroad.”

[…]

OK, I won’t keep going. By 6 p.m., the blizzard subsided. The condemnation resolution had failed. I received 29 mails over 30 minutes, identical except for the name of the Democrat whose sanity was called into question, “authored” by four allegedly different flacks — all speaking for what used to known as the Party of Lincoln.

On April 27 2021, TrendingPolitics.com was one of a few partisan blogs to claim that a “new poll” proved Democrats were “likely to lose control of the House Of Representatives” in the 2022 Midterm elections. A search for the purported poll led to a press release and memo by the NRCC, with partially quoted questions from a late April 2021 survey. However, neither document mentioned the Midterms, and the scant detail provided in the memo demonstrated that the questions were leading and the “findings” often speculative. At best, the claim was out of context.