At an April 27, 2011, news conference in Portsmouth, N.H., businessman and possible Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump boasted about how good a candidate he would be against President Barack Obama.
In a news conference that followed the White House’s release of Obama’s original birth certificate -- after Trump for weeks had publicly raised questions about whether Obama was actually born in Hawaii -- Trump said, "I think, if I do run, I'll do very well. And I think -- look, I'm already leading the polls, and I'm not running. ... CNN did a poll recently where Obama and I are statistically tied. If you would like, I can send it to you. Just call up CNN."
There was no need to call up CNN. The network quickly posted a story headlined, "Trump cites CNN poll, but CNN didn't conduct such a poll."
The authors of the CNN article said that Trump may have been referring to a Newsweek/Daily Beast poll from February -- more than two months ago.
According to CNN, the national survey by Newsweek/Daily Beast "indicated that in a hypothetical general election matchup between President Barack Obama and Trump as the GOP nominee, Obama beat Trump by only two percentage points, 43 to 41, which was well with in the survey's sampling error."
More recent polls tell a different story, however, suggesting that the results from Newsweek/Daily Beast head-to-head matchup between Obama and Trump are either outdated, an outlier or both.
The website RealClearPolitics, which tracks most political polling, offers six such head-to-head matchups, with an average margin of more than 13 points in Obama’s favor. Here’s the rundown:
• ABC News/Washington Post (April 14-17): Obama 52, Trump 40
• McClatchy/Marist (April 10-14): Obama 54, Trump 38
• Rasmussen Reports (April 15-16): Obama 49, Trump 34
• FOX News (April 3-5): Obama 52, Trump 34
• Newsweek/Daily Beast (Feb. 12-15) Obama 43, Trump 41
• Public Policy Polling (Feb. 11-14), Obama 48, Trump 34
A couple of notes: Rasmussen and Public Policy Polling use automated-dialing methods, which many polling experts consider less reliable than polls conducted by human operators. In addition, Rasmussen is widely considered Republican-leaning while PPP is a Democratic firm. The other four firms that asked the question are independent polls sponsored by media organizations and which use traditional polling methodology.
In addition, the two earliest polls -- including the Newsweek/Daily Beast poll -- were conducted before Trump became closely identified with the birth certificate issue. On Feb. 10, 2011, Trump for the first time used a high-profile venue to publicly question Obama’s background, when he told attendees of the conservative CPAC conference that "the people that went to school with (Obama), they never saw him, they don't know who he is." (Four days later, PolitiFact gave the statement a Pants on Fire rating.)
After Trump began broadcasting his views on Obama’s birth certificate in a series of nationally televised interviews, his head-to-head numbers against Obama worsened. His average for the four polls conducted in April produced an average Obama lead of more than 15 points.
So, Trump not only gave an incorrect attribution for the poll that showed him within the margin of error, but he also ignored or didn't know about more recent polls that suggest he would not do well in a head-to-head contest against Obama. We also think it’s misleading of Trump to characterize the poll as "recent." In another context, he might have an argument that it’s "recent," but in a dynamic, fast-changing primary contest, two months is the equivalent of a geological eon. The fact is, the most recent four polls show Trump losing to Obama by near-landslide proportions. We rate Trump’s claim Pants on Fire!
Donald Trump, transcript of press conference in Portsmouth, N.H., April 27, 2011 (CQ subscribers only)
CNN, "Trump cites CNN poll, but CNN didn't conduct such a poll," April 27, 2011
RealClearPolitics, poll data for head-to-head matchup between Donald Trump and Barack Obama, accessed April 27, 2011
PolitiFact, "Donald Trump says people who went to school with Obama never saw him," Feb. 14, 2011
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