Marist Poll Recognized by President Trump

“It was certainly an interesting day.”

Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist Poll, said this with a laugh as she described the day President Donald Trump took to social media to directly reference the organization and one of their recent statistics.

President Trump tweeted about one of the survey center’s latest poll results on Jan. 22 regarding his approval ratings among Latinos. The poll he alluded to was centered on the president’s time in office thus far, Congress and the 2020 presidential election.

The tweet read, “Marist/NPR/PBS Poll shows President Trump’s approval rating among Latinos going to 50%, an increase in one year of 19%. Thank you, working hard!”

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According to Carvalho, this was the first time the Marist Poll was recognized by a U.S. president on social media.

She explained, “Not too many presidents have used social media to express themselves, so that is somewhat [of a] new phenomenon. But to be called out by the president was certainly something that was surprising and kind of changed what we had planned for the day.”

This was also the first time President Trump mentioned the institution specifically by name, according to Mary Griffith, director of Media Initiatives and Polling News at the Marist Poll.  

The tweet stirred a lot of conversation across the nation. Publications such as Vox, The Hill, Time and PBS NewsHour all took to writing about the tweet and some of its contextual inaccuracies.

The survey demonstrates the opinions of Americans as a whole, not just the Latino American community. This is key when examining the data, as only 153 Latinos were surveyed within the sample size of 1,023, as reported by PBS NewsHour.

“There was a lot of context to the survey, but in 280 characters that’s not something that you’re going to be able to provide,” Carvalho said. “I think the president’s interest was to show that he was doing well among a group of voters that people, or the conventional wisdom, would surmise that he wasn’t, which was Latino voters.”

Furthermore, one of the core findings of this poll was that 57 percent of registered voters would vote against the president in the 2020 presidential election.

“It wasn’t necessarily a good use of our poll because [Latino approval ratings] was not the focus of the poll itself,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

The pollsters also received a lot of backlash on social media regarding the president’s words.

According to Griffith, the reactions the organization monitored on social media were very reflective of today’s polarizing times and created a discussion among both supporters and detractors.

“Social media is a wonderful tool to help educate and help teach people about survey research, and to clarify and clear up some of the misconceptions about the field of survey research,” said Griffith.

Griffith explained that oftentimes she and her staff will pull questions or criticisms published to social media and address them on the Marist Poll’s podcast, “Poll Hub.”

“Here at the Marist Poll, education is what we do,” Griffith said. “We teach students about public opinion and survey research. But it’s also part of our mission to educate the public and journalists about how to use the data responsibly. And that’s really what we wanted to get across following his tweet.”

Following through on this notion, the podcast welcomed President of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), Hugo Balta, to discuss concerns that arose within the Latino community and to explain the significance of a margin of error, which was +/- 10 in this particular survey.

“To be able to turn President Trump misusing our data into a dialogue about polling generally and public polls and how they should be reported is a plus because we wouldn’t have known [about] this group,” said Miringoff.

Following the conversation, the Marist Poll was invited to interact with Hispanic journalists at the group’s national conference in San Antonio and to further discuss polls and how to report on them.

“People in politics will do this,” Miringoff said. “It’s well within their right to take things and distort, and it’s well within our right to clarify.”

Alexandria WattsComment