No, 71% of Obama voters do not regret voting for him

The conservative blogosphere is all atwitter with news of a poll that purportedly says that 71% of Obama voters say they regret voting for him.

Here, for instance, is how the Maine Wire reports this:

Buyer’s Remorse: A new poll from Economist/ shows 71 percent of Obama voters, including 55 percent of Democrats, “regret” voting for President Obama’s reelection in 2012. The poll asked, “Do you regret voting for Barack Obama?” 

Thing is, it’s not true. No poll has found that 71% of Obama voters regret voting for him.

Now, it’s certainly true that Obama’s approval ratings have fallen since election day 2012. But the report of the poll is simply wrong.

So what did the poll find? 

The poll found that, when asked, “If the election was held again, would you still vote for Barack Obama,?” 79% said yes, 10% said no and 11% said they were not sure. [See full poll results here.]

And, yes, there was a question about whether voters regretted voting for Obama. However, it was only asked of the 10% of Obama voters who said they would not vote for Obama again. Of that 10%, 71% said yes.

You can see this below.

Look at the row right above the polling data. It says “Asked of those who reported voting for Barack Obama in 2012 but would not vote for him if the election was held again.”

Screen shot 2014-02-19 at 8.51.56 AM

By the way, look at the bottom row of the data. It shows numbers in parentheses.

Know what those are? They’re the actual number of people in the poll who voted for Obama and regretted doing so.

The largest of the numbers is 35 — that’s all. To be sure, those 35 people were a strong majority of the 40 individuals who said they would not vote for Obama again.

The first page of the poll report notes that 999 people were surveyed. Thus, by doing simple division, we see this poll found that 3.5% of the people surveyed regretted voting for Obama, about 7% of Obama voters. Obviously, 7% is around 10% of the 71% claimed.

Moreover, not only is 7% a small proportion and not anywhere near the percentage touted by the conservative blogosphere, but, given the statistical realities of polling, the number is pretty worthless. It’s a subsample of a subsample and has an enormous margin of error.

Again, there’s no doubt that Obama’s approval ratings have fallen since the election, but the florid tale told about his supporters turning their backs on him with regret is simply not backed by the evidence that purportedly told that tale.

The parent organization of the Maine Wire has had other problems with polls before, but they’re just one of many in the conservative blogosphere that got this poll terribly, terribly wrong. It makes one wonder why they were all so sure this incorrect number was correct.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.