Two polls showing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis “running more competitively” against former President Donald Trump in first-in-the-nation nominating states Iowa and New Hampshire are missing some key data, raising questions about the validity of the surveys.
The polls, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies (POS) from March 21-23, were provided exclusively to Axios. The liberal news outlet reported that presumptive GOP presidential candidate DeSantis was leading declared candidate Trump by 8 points (45% to 37%) in a head-to-head match-up in Iowa. The two were tied (39% to 39%) in New Hampshire.
But the POS polls don’t include standard methodology and related data, such as margin of error or sample size information. Nothing on demographics of the respondents, gender, age, what part of the state they’re from, what their political ideology is.
More intriguing is that Axios would only note that Public Opinion Strategies conducted the poll for “an outside client (not a candidate or super PAC).”
Just who the mysterious client is remained unclear as of Monday evening. The Star News Network reached out to POS and Axios’ editors. Neither returned requests for comment.
It’s all “unusual”, renowned pollster John McLaughlin said in an exclusive interview with Star News, particularly given Trump’s widening lead nationally among Republicans.
“It’s hard to judge the quality of the poll when it looks like in the last week or two there have been a lot of stories about DeSantis losing voter support and Trump picking up steam,” said the veteran pollster and strategic consultant who’s clients have included Trump and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
“There’s just no way to judge. There’s no demographics, no geography, no basic information about the quality of the sample,” McLaughlin added.
POS is a well-respected, top polling firm, with a long track record of working with well-known Republican clients. A firm, McLaughlin noted, that usually puts out background methodology information with its polls.
Not that many news outlets were asking for context. Axios, The Hill, and others, including some conservative news outlets, didn’t trouble themselves with the details — bypassing the lack of poll background data in their stories. Instead, the headlines screamed about the “strength” of DeSantis “topping” Trump.
No surprise there, either, McLaughlin said.
“The left-wing media hates Trump,” he said. “Anything bad for Trump, they’ll run with.” Some of the right-wing media, too.
A Trump campaign official did not return a text seeking comment.
Curiously, about the same time Axios was breaking the story on Trump’s apparent polling slip in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Associated Press was publishing a piece about team DeSantis welcoming the contrast with Trump’s “chaos” candidacy.
“In an effort to combat the perception that his numbers might be slipping, DeSantis’ allies quietly distributed polling conducted last week in Iowa and New Hampshire by the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies that suggests vulnerability for Trump. Meanwhile, DeSantis is only just beginning to navigate the intense national scrutiny that comes with being a top-tier presidential prospect,” Steve Peoples, AP’s National Political Reporter, wrote.
Axios also reported that DeSantis doesn’t do so well in a crowded field of Republican candidates, including former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and the youngest contestant in the GOP nomination chase, 37-year-old Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. When the other candidates are added in, according to the POS poll, DeSantis was tied with Trump in Iowa and trailed him by 12 percentage points in New Hampshire.
That’s not clear, either.
“They’re not putting out that information, so it’s hard to tell,” McLaughlin said.
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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Donald Trump” by GPA Photo Archive. CC BY 2.0. Photo “Ron DeSantis” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Iowa Capitol” by Richard Smith. CC BY 2.0.