The latest on the presidential horse race.

Trump Performs Better in Non-Live Polls

As the election cycle presses on, new polls are released almost daily. Sometimes, a certain candidate will decimate his opponents in one and lose handily in another, bringing into question consistency in polling.


Donald Trump is one of those candidates. According to the data, Trump tends to poll better in non-live interview polls via automated phone systems and the Internet.

In these polls, he has scored 29.3 percent and 29.1 percent of the vote, while in live phone interviews he only netted 23.4 percent of the vote. 5.9 percent may not seem like a lot, but for some candidates, it can be the difference between winning and losing in a tight race where several candidates are now battling it out for the Republican nomination.


Iowa and New Hampshire provide two important examples of Trump’s dominance in non-live interviews. Trump’s non-live performance has seen him secure 24.5 percent and 33.2 percent of the vote, while in live polls, he only tallied 20.4 and 22.3 percent. According to Five Thirty Eight, this trend has existed in every non-live poll vs live poll for Trump.

Traditionally, analysts deemed live interviews as more important, but as the Internet becomes more mainstream and voters get younger, online polls are becoming more accepted and are starting to represent the population in ways they never have before.

For Trump, non-live polls have also been heavily represented in the media this year as they are easier to conduct and release with higher frequency. His high performance in online polls has painted him as a successful candidate that is dominating the Republican race, and in some respects, it is true.

An online poll can be released almost daily and show different results, but a phone interview requires a lot more time and is more costly to produce.


Lastly, non-live polls can also result in a quicker burnout for candidates that have reached their expiry date. In 2012, Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry’s campaigns all collapsed and were better documented via online polls.

So, while live polls present a unique opportunity for a candidate to build momentum and surge to the top, they also pose a risk and can accelerate the collapse of their campaign.

Photo credit: Buzz Tache.