Elections

Is it socially undesirable to back Donald Trump?

Audience members hold signs to be autographed by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign rally at the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Audience members hold signs to be autographed by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign rally at the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) AP

So you like Donald Trump? You may be reluctant to tell a live telephone pollster, a new study found.

“Social desirability may be a key factor in why Donald Trump performs better in online polls than through live-telephone interviews,” according to a study released Monday by Morning Consult, which studies political trends.

The group interviewed 2,397 registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in mid-December. People began the survey online, and one-third then answered questions about Trump and other GOP candidates online. One-third answered the questions with a live interview via telephone, and another third answered with an automated phone voice.

Thirty-eight percent of people who answered online picked Trump, the real estate developer and Republican presidential front-runner. Thirty-two percent of those interviewed live chose him.

That 6-percentage-point difference was not evident with other candidates. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson improved by 2 points with live interviewers.

Donald Trump entered the 2016 presidential race on June 16, 2015. Find out where he stands on four of the biggest issues this election: immigration, ISIS, job growth and gay marriage. (Daniel Desrochers/McClatchy DC)

“What explains Trump’s worse numbers on the phone?” Morning Consult’s Kyle Dropp wrote. “One possible explanation is ‘social desirability bias,’ or in other words people being reluctant to select Trump when talking to another person because they do not believe it will be viewed as a socially acceptable decision. Trump is not the pick of the political pundits, and people intuitively get that.

“Of course, that perceived weakness is also a huge part of Trump’s appeal. He is the billionaire who is hated by the elites, the bombastic candidate who breaks out of politico-speak and tells it like it is.”

David Lightman: 202-383-6101, @lightmandavid

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