May 4, 2017
Surveys 2.0: Polling at the Speed of World Events
Major international events happen at the drop of a hat, as Donald Trump’s recent strike on Syria demonstrates. In the 24-hour (and now 24 minute) news cycle, there has to be a way to not only keep up with the story, but also to add something new to the conversation.
One of the best ways to add to the conversation is with a survey—it measures public opinion, but also can shape it. But surveys that take days to run can never keep up with the news cycle. That’s why we developed a proprietary system that allows us to run surveys on trending topics in a matter of hours. We have a database of 320 million users who fill out surveys that appear on an app they’re already using. This allows us to run flash polls to quantify public opinion on crucial issues.
Donald Trump’s strike on Syria occurred on April 7. Thanks to our base of users, we had a complete set of insights by April 9. We sent out surveys in several countries (like France, Canada, and even Russia) to keep our finger on the pulse of the international community. And we surveyed 1,000 Americans, resulting in the following key findings:
We started the survey by quantifying the most basic measure of popular opinion—how Americans felt about the strike. Our survey respondents supported Trump’s strike—but the margin was narrow, hinting that the strike was incredibly divisive. 38% of Americans supported the strike, while another 35% disapproved. And a whole 27% were unsure.
Trump Voters Are More Supportive than Clinton
But this insight goes even deeper. Our survey reveals just how stratified public opinion is—and how quantifiably different the opinions of Trump and Clinton supporters are. 72% of respondents who voted for Trump in the last election support the strike—that’s 34% more than popular opinion (only 38% approve). It’s also five times more than Clinton voters, only 15% of which approve.
The Strike Changed America’s Perception of Trump
1 in 5 Americans said the strike actually improved their opinions of the president. A slightly larger amount (23%), said that it worsened their opinion. 58% said their opinion stayed the same. More than 40% of the population had their opinions drastically changed by the strike, signaling that it could be the start of a larger downswing in popularity for Trump.
While these are three of the major insights we discovered from surveying Americans, we also gathered American insights on foreign policy in general (37% lean interventionist, while more than half are unsure of their position), and other specific policy issues (like Russian election interference and Steve Bannon’s recent removal from the National Security Council). Our survey tech allowed us to quantify public opinion as quickly as possible, and generate an almost instantaneous reaction to breaking news. Tech is certainly revolutionizing politics, but it’s also revolutionizing the way surveys are being conducted—turning them into an invaluable tool in shaping and reporting on the news.
About the Author
John Papadakis is the founder and CEO of Pollfish [www.pollfish.com]