On Bill Maher show of April 21, 2017, he read a Pew poll comparing Republican and Democrats. He claims it shows that after the election, most Republicans think we are doing much better economically, when the data shows a slight continuing uptick. On bombing Syria, when Obama wanted to bomb Syria and that only 22% of Republicans approved, but a new Pew poll supposedly shows 88% of Republicans approved of Trump’s bombing of Syria. Democrats held the same 32-37% approval for the bombing, for Trump and Obama. They also did survey on our income tax system. Republicans went from 39% thinking it is fair to 56% thinking it is fair.

This poll would seem to show that Republicans change their opinion of the same data based upon who is in office whereas Democrats maintain their opinions more rationally.

Is this just bias in the system or are these findings legitimate? Were the polls conducted in unfair ways to get the data to show the results desired by an agenda? Are Pew polls considered to be fair and if so, are they being misrepresented to put forth a political agenda?

closed as off-topic by jwenting, gerrit, user5341, pericles316, Brythan Apr 26 '17 at 3:18

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    We can't say whether Republicans favor bombing Syria based on who is in the Oval Office, or whether Republicans changed their mind about bombing Syria for other reasons (e.g. different situation in 2017 vs 2013). (To answer that we'd have to speculate about motivation, and motivation questions are off topic.) – ff524 Apr 25 '17 at 1:36
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    I think it's fair to argue that confirmation bias is yooge in everybody. People see what they want to see. – fredsbend Apr 25 '17 at 5:53
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    It's pretty well established that people will tend to construct their opinions to be consistent with the opinions of the authorities that they respect. So, this one's probably a Yes, that Republicans are more likely to buy a position if it's advocated by a prominent Republican. Ditto for other political/religious groups. – Nat Apr 25 '17 at 6:16
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    How is this an "utterly partisan political rant"? It lists the stats presented in the show, for both parties, repeats what they "seem to show" with neutral language (no "rant") and asks if they're accurate or biased. Follow up question: would this question be labeled an "utterly partisan political rant" if the phrasing was identical but the parties in the stats were reversed...? – user568458 Apr 25 '17 at 7:46
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    @user5341 If you find a notable claim about any of those things, claiming there's a partisan difference that goes the other way around, it'd be an on-topic, welcome, valid question. If you phrase it just like the question above, I doubt anyone would accuse you of a "rant". If they do, I'll question it just the same. – user568458 Apr 25 '17 at 16:25


The numbers are not from one poll checking for bias or change in opinion based on who is president, but were selected by Maher from various polls to then draw that conclusion.

While Maher names Pew as source, not all numbers are from Pew.


The source is this Pew poll:

enter image description here

The numbers quoted by Maher are correct - 10-30% of Republicans viewed the economy positively under Obama, and that number increased strongly from 31% to 61% once Trump took over. For Democrats, it did not change with the election of Trump.

Bombing Syria

Maher names 22% (2013) and 86% (2017) for Republicans and 38%/37% for Democrats approving of airstrikes.

I was unable to find the polls containing those numbers.

These two polls from 2013 and 2017 show slightly different numbers: 35% (2013) and 77% (2017) for Republicans and 29%/45% for Democrats.

A CBS Poll from 2017 shows numbers closer to those cited by Maher, but I was unable to find a comparable poll for 2013.

Income Tax

Mahers numbers come from this Gallup Poll:

enter image description here

It shows that Republican numbers did significantly increase in 2017. It also shows that their numbers decreased significantly in 2009 (when Obama was elected). The numbers for Democrats are a bit more stable (although they also increased under Trump).


It is difficult to draw any real conclusion based on these numbers. It is not too difficult to cherry-pick polls that would show that Democrats change their outlook based on the current president, while Republicans are much more stable (example). It is also difficult to say if the changes are based on who is president, or if other factors also affected the change. Here is an analysis of the issue (focused on Wisconsin), which concludes that both parties are affected by this, although Republicans more so.

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    Final paragraph, linked chart, something strikes me as odd about this in a way that makes me suspicious that it is not a strong indicator of the idea that "Republicans are more stable". Note how at all times the proportions are always about 4:2:1 Dem.:Ind:Rep, and that the scale of the fluctuations over time are also in about this proportion. Maybe there is some additional context that would make the linked graph salient to your point but as it stands now I don't find it to be a good example for your point (even though such examples almost surely exist). – Dave Apr 25 '17 at 16:32
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    @Dave - He's not making that claim, he's stating that if someone were so motivated, one could cherry pick and mish-mash sources to support such a claim. Given the sweeping breadth of issues and outlandish claims that people cherry pick information to "support," I don't think that statement is especially controversial or in need of exact documentation. I would need to see why this topic would be so special that it couldn't be misrepresented, more than proof that it could. – PoloHoleSet Apr 26 '17 at 13:50

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