Public perceptions of pollsters in the United States: Experimental evidence

General Information

Public perceptions of pollsters in the United States: Experimental evidence
Timothy P. Johnson, Henning Silber, Jill E. Darling
Publication Type
Journal paper
Social Science Quarterly
Objective: Anecdotal evidence suggests that the term “pollster” has, in recent years, become stigmatized in the United States. We explore this and a subsequent question as to whether negative perceptions of pollsters affect people's perceived trustworthiness of survey findings. Methods: Survey experiments were administered to national probability-based samples after the 2016 and 2020 elections. Results: In each study, pollsters obtained significantly more negative ratings when compared to “survey researchers” and “public opinion researchers,” suggesting that the general public views pollsters, who are more likely to be viewed as partisan, as being less honest/ethical. In line with social identity theory, interaction models revealed that those rating pollster critic Donald Trump most favorably had the most negative ratings of pollsters and public opinion researchers, compared to survey researchers. Yet, the vignette experiment showed that negative perceptions of pollsters did not affect the perceived trustworthiness of survey result reports. Conclusions: We conclude that while there appears to be a stigmatization of pollsters, those negative perceptions do not translate into less trust in the findings of public opinion.