Tuesday, March 19, 2019

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Republicans are crowing over a new USA Today poll that shows 50% of American agree with Donald Trump's assessment that the Mueller probe is a "witch hunt".  The problem is of course the poll's methodology was misleading and biased.

President Donald Trump on Monday touted poll results that appeared to show more Americans than ever siding with his oft-repeated accusation that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe is nothing more than a “witch hunt.”

But some polling experts took issue with the phrasing of the survey question, saying it may have skewed the results.

“President Trump has called the Special Counsel´s investigation a ‘witch hunt’ and said he´s been subjected to more investigations than previous presidents because of politics. Do you agree?” the new USA Today/Suffolk University poll asked 1,000 registered voters in live telephone interviews between March 13 and 17.

The survey found that 50 percent of respondents said they agreed with the president’s view of Mueller’s probe of Russian election meddling and possible Trump campaign collusion in the 2016 presidential election.

Forty-seven percent disagreed, while 3 percent were undecided, according to the survey. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for the total sample results.

Trump, who regularly decries the nearly 2-year-old Mueller probe as a politically motivated witch hunt, was quick to highlight the results of a survey that appeared to show the public on his side.

But here's the truth:

But multiple polling experts took exception to the structure of the question.

“I’m sorry to say this question violates three basic principles of questionnaire design,” said Gary Langer, president of Langer Research Associates, which polls for ABC News and others.

Langer said in an email to CNBC that the question is “triple-barreled” because it asks three things within a single question: whether the probe is a witch hunt; whether Trump has been subjected to more investigations than other presidents; and whether those probes have been lodged because of politics.

“Answers to each can differ,” Langer said.

He added that asking respondents if they agree — without asking if they disagree — makes the question “unbalanced.” And agree-disagree questions in general are “fundamentally biasing, because they lack the alternative proposition,” Langer said.

“In sum, it is a very good idea, in survey questions, to ask one thing at a time, and to do so in a balanced and neutral way,” Langer said.

Since I'm a computer guy, I would have said no to the question because not all three things are correct.  Trump has been subjected to more investigations than other presidents, certainly.   But the other two are not true.  The number of people who could have said yes to any of those single three statements would be recorded as yes for all three.

In other words, the poll is useless.

Won't stop the GOP though.

Or, you know, Mueller.  But as I've said, the White House is absolutely going to try to bury the report.

White House lawyers expect to have an opportunity to review whatever version of Robert Mueller's report Attorney General Bill Barr submits to Congress before it reaches lawmakers and the public, multiple sources familiar with the matter said, setting up a potential political battle over the hotly anticipated document. 
The attorneys want the White House to have an opportunity to claim executive privilege over information drawn from documents and interviews with White House officials, the sources said. 
The White House's review of executive privilege claims are within its legal purview, but could set up a political battle over the perception President Donald Trump is trying to shield certain information from the public about an investigation that has swirled around him since the first day of his presidency. 
Justice Department lawyers could advise him against certain assertions if they don't feel it's legally defensible. If Trump does assert executive privilege, the decision could be litigated in court if it's challenged, which Democrats would almost certainly do. 
"There's always tension between what looks best politically and what represents the interests of the institution -- the office of the presidency," one source close to the White House said. "Preserving executive privilege trumps political optics." 
While Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani suggested privilege could be used to keep parts of the report from public view, the issue is up to the White House, not the President's personal attorneys.

This will get leaked, of course.

Nixon didn't stop the Pentagon Papers, guys.

Won't work here.

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