How To Skeptically Look At Polls

It’s election season. The time when a political junkie’s fancy turns to polls, polls, and more polls. With so many polls being released, many of the polls will show results that are contradictory from each other, which one do you believe? Should you believe any of them?

Conservatives have long been leery of polls, but that skepticism reached its height after Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016. Much of this skepticism lies in a misunderstanding of how to look at polls and what they represent. Some of this misunderstanding is fed by media outlets and politicians that misuse polls.

When considering polls, keep a few simple rules of thumb in mind:

Polls are historical, not predictive. They provide a snapshot of public opinion when they were taken. By themselves, they do not forecast the outcome of elections. Polls are lagging indicators that measure public opinion as it was on a given date.

Look at the trend of all the polls. To see which way public opinion is moving, don’t just look at one poll. Look at similar polls taken over a period of time and compare the results. For example, one poll on Donald Trump’s approval rating isn’t very useful, but if you look at the trend of all polls showing the presidential approval rating you can see whether it has improved or declined.

Real Clear Politics is a useful site that acts as a clearinghouse of polls. You can look up individual poll types such as President Trump’s approval, individual races such as Ted Cruz v. Beto O’Rourke, or generic ballots.

RCP shows all the polls of each particular type, which makes it easy to see trends. For instance, the page of Cruz-O’Rourke polls shows 10 polls going back to April. The trend shows a surge by O’Rourke in which Cruz moved from a double-digit lead to a statistical tie.

Discard the outliers. Politicians and the media often trumpet shocking poll results such as the recent Rasmussen poll that showed President Trump’s support among black voters at 36 percent. Polls that differ wildly from other polls are outliers and should be treated with suspicion.

One way of reducing the effect of outliers is to take an average of polls. Both Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight have pages that show the average of polls asking about President Trump’s approval rating that go all the way back to his inauguration. These are useful tools for getting the big picture of the longterm trends in presidential approval.

Look at the nuts and bolts of the poll. Not all polls are created equal. You can get an idea of how reliable a poll is by looking at who it surveyed. The most accurate polls talk to likely voters. Polls of registered voters are less accurate while those that survey adults are the least accurate.

Pollsters also must make assumptions about who will show up to vote. These assumptions are used to weight the data from the poll, but there is no way to test their validity until Election Day when we find out who comes out to vote. Many polls give information about the weighting and the mix of Democrat and Republican respondents if you read the fine print.

Consider the margin of error. No poll is exact because they all represent only a sample of the population. The accuracy of the poll can be calculated and is usually disclosed as the “margin of error.” A large sample size is more accurate and reduces the poll’s margin of error.

The thing to remember is that the closer a poll is, the less it can be used to predict a specific outcome. For example, the most recent Cruz-O’Rourke pollthat showed a one-point race had a 4.4-point margin of error. This is known as a statistical tie. The one-point difference is well within the margin of error so the key takeaway from the poll is that the race is currently too close to call, not that Ted Cruz would win the election by one point.

If a poll shows a large difference discrepancy between two viewpoints, you can be reasonably confident that the general breakdown is correct, even if the specific percentages are not. For example, when 72 percent opposed the Trump Administration policy of separating immigrant children from their parent and only 27 percent were in favor in a June CBS News poll, there was little doubt that Americans strongly opposed the policy.

Consider polling difficulties. The smaller the race, the tougher it is to get good polling. National polls are the most accurate, but state and district polls are more questionable. There might be no public polling at all in some House and Senate races.

The root cause of much of the 2016 polling problem was polling at the state level in a few Rust Belt states. By Election Day, national polls were showing a close race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The RCP average gave Hillary Clinton a 3.1 point edge, within the margin of error of most polls. In the final tally, Clinton won the popular vote by 2.1 points which was very close to what the polls showed.

Of course, the popular vote does not decide presidential elections and the predicted outcome of elections in key states turned the Electoral College results. An after-action report by the American Association for Public Opinion Research noted that “eight states with more than a third of the electoral votes needed to win the presidency had polls showing a lead of three points or less”and that “polls on average indicated that Trump was one state away from winning the election.”

The outcome in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin was the surprise for forecasters that turned the election to Trump, yet the polling in both Michiganand Pennsylvania showed a close race. In both states, the last poll before the election favored Donald Trump. The polls were only substantially off in Wisconsin where the last poll favored Hillary by eight points, but Trump won by less than one point.

In the end, most polls did not capture a late surge by Donald Trump in the wake of FBI Director James Comey’s memo to Congress. The lagging indicators were too far behind to include the rapidly changing landscape but did reflect a very close race in most cases. The AAPOR after-action report also faults an overrepresentation of college graduates in many polls that would have favored Clinton.

Polling is not an exact science. Poll results shouldn’t be considered to be gospel, but neither should they be ignored. By looking beyond the headline, you can determine whether a poll is reliable and how it fits into the big picture of the election.

Originally published on Sept. 3, 2018

A Year of Democrat Attacks On Trump Has Been Ineffective

For the past year, Democrats have unloaded on Donald Trump with both barrels. The attacks against Mr. Trump have been withering and unrelenting. The problem for Democrats is that they have not been particularly effective.

Sure, President Trump’s approval rating has a double-digit deficit, but his numbers seem to have bottomed out in the mid-30s. The Real Clear Politics average found that Trump’s average approval was at its lowest in August at 37 percent. This was 20 points less than his disapproval rate. Since then, Trump’s numbers have improved only slightly to 39 percent, still a 16-point net disapproval rate.

The problem for Democrats is that Trump’s approval has always been low and a year of attacks has not markedly changed his numbers. This may be partly due to the large number of different tactics used by the Democrats, none of which has been a homerun. Trump has been charged with not keeping his promises, with having problems with his temperament, with lying and even with colluding with Russia and supporting white supremacists, but none of the attacks seems to be a silver bullet.

There has been speculation since 2015 that Trump’s antics would cost him support among Republicans. So far that has not happened. The Washington Examiner reported last month that two polls showed Republican support for Trump was still at 75 percent. Trump’s Republican support may be eroded by the failure to repeal Obamacare and enact tax reform, a rumored amnesty for DACA participants, not building the wall, or his recent pivots to Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), but few Republicans would be likely to back a Democrat alternative.

To secure a victory in the midterms and 2020, Democrats need to offer independent voters something other than “Not Trump” and it is here that they are falling flat. Politico reports that the traditional Democrat platform planks don’t excite many voters outside the Democrat base. Voters worry that free college tuition proposals will still cost them money. Obamacare has gained majority approval and the idea of government health care for all is gaining popularity, but it still generates suspicion and is very divisive.

Democrats are learning the same lesson that the Republicans were faced with during the Obama era. Opposition to an unpopular president will only get you so far. An agenda that convinces people that you can make their lives better is needed to seal the deal.

It is on this point that one Democrat line of attack seems to show promise. Politico notes that a recent DCCC poll showed that Democrats lead President Trump by 17 points on the question of who “fights for people like me.” Last February, Trump and the Democrats each received 50 percent on the question. The change may be the result of Democrat charges that many Trump policies, such as financial deregulation, tax reform, and opposing Obamacare, are intended to benefit the rich at the expense of everyone else.

In the end, upcoming elections are likely to be referendums on President Trump’s job performance and the economy. If undecided voters feel that the country – and their own lives and careers – are going well, then they may decide to reward Trump and the Republicans despite their misgivings.

“He is the president,” Matt Canter, a focus group analyst told Politico. “The assessment that voters will make is, is he a good one or not? While Democrats like me have come to conclusions on that question, most of the voters who will decide future elections have not.”

Reminder: Democrats Would Cancel Elections Too




Yesterday, I reported on a disturbing poll from the Washington Post that found that more than half of Republicans would be willing to postpone the 2020 election if Trump proposed it in order to make sure no non-citizens vote. The Constitution allows for no such act by the president and U.S. Code as passed by Congress has delegated such decisions to states, but what is most concerning is the trust that Republicans appear to have in a particular man, whether personally or for partisan reasons, rather than our constitutional system. It is the sort of trust in politicians and government uncharacteristic of Americans, and which could put freedom and limited government in jeopardy.

I say that it is uncharacteristic of Americans, but perhaps it isn’t anymore. The instinct to trust “our guy” over a system of the rule of law (not men), check and balances, separation of powers, federalism — in short, our Constitutional system — is present in dangerous doses on both sides of the aisle. Erick was right when he wrote about this bipartisan problem yesterday and pointed out that these headlines about polls like WaPo’s are all the rage now because “they focus on the Republicans right now because of Trump.” So let’s focus on Democrats who do the same.




A little over a year ago, the polling outfit WPA Research found that 67 percent of Democrats “would cancel the 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump if it meant President Obama could serve another term,” as The Hill reported. Fascinating here was the dislike not only in Trump — predictable coming from Democrats — but the comparative dislike of Clinton compared with Obama.

The usual caveats about the reliability of this poll in terms of question ordering and wording should be mentioned; they apply to both this poll and the WaPo poll of which the shocking results from Republicans were reported. That said, let me pose two questions that I posed elsewhere in response to criticisms of the WaPo poll yesterday.

First, if you believe this poll is incorrect, how far off do you think the results are? Second, how far from the truth do the results need to be before you’re comfortable? If only 30 percent of Republicans would postpone an election because Trump said non-citizens would vote, would that not concern you? If only 40 percent of Democrats really favored canceling the 2016 elections and letting Barack Obama serve a third term, would it no longer be scary? Where do you think the number really is, and is it a number that makes you comfortable?

Now, it appears that Republicans have a better excuse for postponing an election — and they were asked about postponing it, not canceling it, as Democrats were in the WPA Research poll. Republican responses correlated with concerns over the number of non-citizens they believed had voted in past elections. The assumptions about the extent of vote fraud were based on wildly speculative survey results, the methodology of which, as I mentioned yesterday, has been thoroughly criticized and can’t hold up to common sense — but at least there was a reason.

That said, I’m willing to bet that the crossover between the Democrats who responded that they would cancel the 2016 election and give Obama a third term and the Democrats who think that “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected President.” According to a YouGov poll, that’s 55 percent of Democrats, even though there is no evidence that hacking of vote tallies occurred. Democrats can come up with concerns about the validity of election results just like Republicans can, and they can be just as bad.

That said, the real reasons for these responses is probably tribalism. To understand what I’m getting at, here’s another test: if your reasoning for postponing an election or holding a do-over is that it is likely fraudulent — say because of non-citizens voting or because Russia hacked voting machines and changed votes — then you will be okay with doing so regardless of which party proposed it. Republicans: if Barack Obama had postponed the 2016 election because he said illegal immigrants were going to vote in large numbers, would you have supported him? Democrats: if Donald Trump said intelligence reports confirmed a risk that Russian hackers could change votes and postponed the 2020 election until the danger was dealt with, would you support him?

That’s what I thought.

Abraham Lincoln famously said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” North Korea’s bellicosity may be grabbing the headlines this week, but if the American system of government continues to lose priority in comparison with a preferred strongman, it would be just as destructive to the Republic, if not more completely. Perhaps before we call the next election the most important in our lifetime, just like the last four, we can recognize that our country does not rise or fall from a single election, but by the continued effort of its citizens to preserve it beyond Election Day. It is time to relearn the lessons of history and liberty.

Survey: Young Voters Leaving GOP in Droves

Young voters have never been a strong demographic for the Republican Party. The group was one of the core areas of support for Barack Obama and conventional wisdom has held for years that young voters trend liberal and then become more conservative as they get older. A recent study from Pew Research disputes the conventional wisdom and has alarming news for the GOP.

The Pew study included several surveys of voters of all ages over a 15-month period from December 2015 through March 2017. The survey found that about one in ten voters from both parties switched parties at some point during the 2016 election season. The numbers were similar for all age groups across party lines with one exception.

Almost half (44 percent) of Republicans aged 18-29 left the party at some point during the campaign. About half (21 percent) of these young Republicans returned by March, but 23 percent still identified or leaned Democrat two months into the Trump presidency.

“What makes these figures even more striking is the stability of nearly every other age group within both parties,” Republican pollster Kristin Soltis Anderson writes in the Washington Examiner. “On the Democratic side, roughly three-quarters of their voters stuck with the Democratic Party through and through – including those younger voters who supposedly felt so disillusioned with the Democratic Party over the treatment of Bernie Sanders.”

The leftward movement of young Republicans was partially offset in 2016 by the rightward movement of older voters. About a quarter of Baby Boomer Democrats left the party with 14 percent still identifying as Republican in March 2017.

“These voters no doubt played a large role in the success of Trump in states and counties with many ‘Reagan Democrats’ who were drawn to the GOP with Trump’s message,” Anderson says.

Nevertheless, Anderson sees long-term problems for the GOP. “The half of young Republicans who wobbled or left the party altogether were die-hard enough to be on board with the GOP all the way through the moment that Trump sat well atop the primary polls,” she says. Young Republicans who deserted the party to Barack Obama, because of the government shutdown or due to the party’s early embrace of Trump were already gone by December 2015 when the survey started.

Current trends suggest that young voters are also not becoming more conservative as they get older. Anderson pointed out in a separate column that both Generation X and Millennial voters are moving more to the left as they age.

“The Boomers got more conservative, Gen X got a little more Democratic, and over the last 10 years, the millennials got more liberal,” Anderson says. “It’s not just that Democrats have held a consistent advantage over the GOP with this generation (and they have – by massive margins), it’s that the proportion calling themselves liberal Democrats has increased substantially since the 2012 election.”

Demographic trends are not written in stone. The shift of young voters to the left is not foreordained for upcoming elections, but business-as-usual conservative politics will not win the group to the Republican Party. It will likely require an earthshaking event or a politician with a special connection to younger voters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Poll Shows Americans Becoming More Liberal On Social Issues

 

The federal government might have moved to the right with the election of Donald Trump, but a new poll shows that the country is drifting further left on moral issues. The poll by Gallup shows that Americans are the most liberal that they have ever been on a host of issues.

Of the 19 topics polled, Gallup reports that 10 were at the most liberal or permissive points on record. These include birth control, divorce, sex between unmarried people, gay or lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage, doctor-assisted suicide, pornography and polygamy.

Conversely, two topics were also at historic lows for approval. Fewer Americans than ever before approve of the death penalty and medical testing on animals.

Gallup notes that the leftward trend is not new. The poll has shown a liberal shift in 2014 and 2015. None of the issues polled has shown a conservative trend in that time.  Gay/lesbian relations show a 23-point increase in approval since the question was first asked. Having a baby outside of wedlock, sex outside of marriage, divorce and polygamy also show double-digit increases in approval. Only one issue, medical testing on animals, shows a double-digit decrease in approval.

The issue with the highest approval rating was birth control, which had support from 91 percent of respondents. Divorce and sex between unmarried adults also had approval from more than two-thirds of those polled (73 and 69 percent respectively).

The most unpopular issue was extramarital affairs, which had the approval of only nine percent. Cloning humans (14 percent) and polygamy (17 percent) rounded out the bottom three. The 17 percent approval for polygamy represented a record high.

Abortion is still one of the most divisive issues in the country. Forty-three percent consider abortion to be morally acceptable while 49 percent disagree. Approval for abortion has increased by one point since the question was first asked.

The poll underscores the difficulty Republicans face on moral issues. While the Republican economic message seems to resonate with many voters, those same voters tend to lean Democrat on social issues. While conservatives are holding ground on abortion, they are losing the culture war on a great many other issues.

There are two potential strategies for dealing with the liberal trends on social issues. The first and most obvious way would be for Republicans to deemphasize social issues and concentrate on their economic agenda. This strategy may partly explain the victory of Donald Trump in northern, socially liberal states. A GOP that takes this course might look more libertarian in the future.

A second alternative would be for conservatives to make the case for their moral viewpoint. In a nation that is increasingly secular, simply stating that something is wrong because the Bible says so is not an effective tactic. Instead, conservatives should take a practical, evidence-based approach that says, for example, that having children outside of marriage is wrong because it makes it more likely that they will grow up in poverty. The Breakpoint ministry, founded by Chuck Colson, has done of excellent job of explaining the Christian – not necessarily conservative – worldview for decades.

Because many liberal viewpoints are destructive economically and culturally, the move left also signals that, as Chuck Colson was fond of saying, salvation will not arrive on Air Force One. Without a change in social strategy from Republicans, increasingly liberal moral views may provide Democrats with an opportunity for a political comeback while at the same time making many national problems, such as the entitlement crisis, worse. Without a change in national attitudes at the grassroots level, lasting conservative reform will be impossible to achieve.

Pollsters Look For Why They Went Wrong in 2016

 

 

A group of pollsters has conducted a postmortem of 2016 election polling to try to determine why so many of the nation’s pollsters and political analysts, including those of us at The Resurgent, got it wrong. The resulting study, released by the American Association for Public Opinion Research, “found that the biggest culprit was state-level polling underestimating the level of Trump’s support, most importantly in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin,” observes Business Insider in a classic understatement.

No kidding.

National polls showed Hillary Clinton with an average lead of about three-points, which was very close to the actual popular vote result which Clinton won by two points. The polls were less accurate at the state level, where they showed a tight race, but still pointed to a Clinton victory.

The three perennially blue states in the upper Midwest flipped to Trump and enabled his path to 270 electoral votes. The fundamental question is why pollsters underestimated Trump’s support in these states. On that issue, the analysis found three main factors that likely caused polls to be off in those states.

A major factor was that a large segment of voters waited until the last week before the election to make their decision. In Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, those late-deciding voters broke decisively for Donald Trump. In Wisconsin, they chose Trump by a 30-point margin. The margin for Trump among these voters was 17 points in Pennsylvania and Florida.

A second major factor was that many polls included too many college graduates in their samples and their assumptions about the electorate. “Voters with higher education levels were more likely to support Clinton,” the report said. “Furthermore, recent studies are clear that people with more formal education are significantly more likely to participate in surveys than those with less education.”

The third factor was that many Trump voters did not admit to preferring Trump in pre-election polling. There had been speculation about reluctance of Trump supporters to admit their preference to pollsters, the so-called “Shy Trump effect,” but the report notes that this effect could also be attributed to late-deciding voters.

Two additional factors were also considered to be less compelling reasons for the polling problems. The report notes that in 2016, turnout grew more in Republican counties than in Democrat counties when compared to 2012. This could have caused an overcounting of Democrat demographics while underestimating Republican support. The report also notes that Donald Trump’s name appeared above Hillary Clinton’s on the actual ballot while polls tended to randomize the order of the candidates. The report considers these effects to be insignificant.

Regarding the pre-election forecasts that Clinton was a shoo-in, the report notes that polling and forecasting are two different things. “Pollsters and astute poll reporters are often careful to describe their findings as a snapshot in time, measuring public opinion when they are fielded,” the report notes. “Forecasting models do something different – they attempt to predict a future event. As the 2016 election proved, that can be a fraught exercise, and the net benefit to the country is unclear.”

Polls are already history when they are published. The measure public opinion on the dates that they are conducted, they do not predict future events. Polling results and trends can be used by forecasters to make predictions, but, if public opinion is changing rapidly, as it did in 2016 with FBI Director Comey’s eleventh hour letter to Congress, then polling is less effective as a forecasting tool.

The analysis also found that there is no consistent partisan bias in recent US polling. While polling underestimated support for Trump last year, the reverse has been true in other recent elections. “Whether the polls tend to miss in the Republican direction or the Democratic direction is tantamount to a coin flip,” said the report.

In 2012, late-breaking support for Barack Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the Obama bromance with Chris Christie derailed what many thought would be a win for Mitt Romney. In 2004, early exit polling showed that John Kerry would defeat incumbent George W. Bush. When all the votes were counted, Bush won a convincing victory.

Looking back at the 2016 polls, which are still available on Real Clear Politics, the signs were there. Pennsylvania showed a 1.9-point lead for Clinton, which was well within the margin of error of most polls. The latest poll before the election gave Trump a one-point lead. In Michigan, the average showed Clinton up by 3.4 points, still within the margin of error, while the last poll showed Trump with a two-point lead. Wisconsin polling was farther off, showing a 6.5-point lead for Clinton. Trump did not lead in any Wisconsin polls, but won all three states by less than one point on Election Day.

The bottom line for political observers is that polling is not an exact science. This is particularly true in a country that is as closely divided as the United States is today. While polls are useful to give a snapshot of public opinion, they can’t be expected to accurately predict an election winner in a tight race where poll results are within the margin of error.

In retrospect, the fact that polls were as tight as they were going into the final week before the election should have been a red flag for Clinton supporters. For an opponent who was as unpopular as Donald Trump to be within the margin of error of the Democrat candidate in what was almost universally assumed to be a coronation more than an election indicated serious problems with the Clinton campaign.

The surge of Trump voters in the final week may be partially due to the continuing dribbles of scandal from the hacked emails and Director Comey’s decision to reopen the investigation a week before the election, but it also indicates a more fundamental problem for the Democrats. Many of these late Trump voters undoubtedly went for Trump because Democrat messaging failed to convince them that Hillary would improve their own lives and finances.

New Democrat Analysis Shows Economics Led To Trump Win

I recently spent some time with Joel, a friend from Oregon who had voted for Barack Obama twice. He said that he had not supported Trump in the 2016 election, but could understand why many people had. Portland had been a thriving port, but the decline of the timber industry had led to an economic slump in the region. Plans to revitalize the area with a natural gas shipping facility languished under President Obama and would presumably continue to do so under Hillary Clinton. In the end, he didn’t vote at all.

Joel and others like him are the subject of an internal study by the Priorities USA PAC detailed in the Washington Post. What they found hearkens back to the Bill Clinton’s basic rule: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

The study focused on voters that switched from Obama to Trump as well as “drop off” voters like Joel who stayed home. The polling found that Obama-Trump voters were largely working-class whites who were skeptical of Democrat economic ideas. Drop off voters were largely anti-Trump, but not swayed by the message of the Clinton Democrats. Many drop off voters were in “communities of color” while “struggling exurban families” often pulled the lever for Trump.

Other findings about the Obama-Trump voters include:

  • 50 percent said their incomes were falling behind the cost of living
  • Another 30 percent said that their incomes merely kept pace with cost-of-living increases
  • 42 percent said that Democrat economic policies favor the wealthy vs. only 21 percent who thought Trump’s policies favored the wealthy
  • 30 percent said that their vote was a vote against Clinton rather than for Trump

When a focus group was asked what the Democratic Party stood for, Obama-Trump voters answers showed that the Democrats have lost touch with blue-collar voters. Focus group members answered the question with phrases like “The one percent,” “The status quo” and “They’re for the party. Themselves and the party.” Many voters see the Democrats as representing the elite and the establishment after two terms of Barack Obama.

Some of the problems result from Clinton’s unlikability, but Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA said the problems go deeper. Since many of the problems are linked to Democrat policies and their effectiveness over the past eight years, the problem is much more difficult to resolve that just finding a more charismatic candidate.

Blue collar voters put their faith in Obama and were rewarded with a lackluster economy and diminished purchasing power. When faced with more of the same from Democrat presidential and congressional candidates, they voted for Donald Trump, the current candidate of hope and change. While the study doesn’t address other potential Republican candidates, it seems likely that Clinton would have had the same or worse problems against other Republicans with fewer negatives than Trump.

With much of the modern Democrat strategy emphasizing identity politics and knee-jerk “resistance” to Donald Trump, the party is currently ill-prepared to mount a comeback. Cecil’s first solution is to attack traditional liberal bogeymen such as Wall Street, pharmaceutical companies and for-profit colleges.

His second solution is more substantive. “The second part of the argument must include a real, forward-looking economic plan that does more than rehash the same four policy proposals from the last 20 years,” he says. “How do we deal with automation and huge company mergers? What do we do to address opportunity deserts in rural and urban areas where real investment is almost impossible to find?”

The lesson in the study for Republicans is that parties that promise recovery and prosperity need to implement policies that can deliver. There is a window to win traditionally Democrat blue-collar voters to the GOP as Ronald Reagan did with the Reagan Democrats in the 1980s, but it may close quickly if President Trump and congressional Republicans prove themselves incapable of governing and forging bipartisan alliances to advance their agenda.

A rule of politics is that voters vote with their wallets. 2016 was no different. 2018 won’t be either.

 

Media Freak Out: Seven in 10 Optimistic After Trump Speech

The immediate opinions of President Trump’s address to the joint session of Congress last night were glowing. In contrast to the angry ranting of Mr. Trump’s campaign stump speeches, his address last night was uplifting and optimistic. The president even took the opportunity to extend an olive branch to Democrats with an offer of bipartisan compromise.

There was little criticism of the style and tone of President Trump’s address. Talk show host Erick Erickson, a longtime critic of Trump, said in The Resurgent, “Last night, the President showed he really has found his footing. He showed he really can be up to the task of being everyone’s President. He showed he is invested in the job.”

Erickson said that the speech was not conservative, that “there was big government for everyone,” but that the policy proposals would not be remembered. “What does advance is how people left the speech feeling,” Erickson said. “And Americans had every reason to feel reassured that things will be okay in the Age of Trump.”

Polling by CNN supports Erickson’s assessment. The poll of speech-watchers found that a majority, 57 percent, had a positive reaction to the speech. Sixty-nine percent felt that Trump’s policies would move the country in the right direction after the speech. This is a 11-point increase from before the speech. By that measure alone, the speech must be considered a success.

In comparison, during much of Barack Obama’s presidency Rasmussen’s right track/wrong track poll showed that two-thirds to three-quarters of Americans felt the country was on the wrong track. The week of the election, only 32 percent believed the country was on the right track. The most recent Rasmussen polling, from Feb. 19-23, show that the right-track number is now up to 45 percent.

Sixty-three percent said that President Trump has had the right priorities. The needle ticked up here as well since 57 percent agreed with that statement before the speech.

Trump also got a small boost in confidence from those who watched the speech. Before the speech, 59 percent were very or somewhat confident in Trump’s ability to carry out his duties as president. After the speech, that number increased to 64 percent.

In his speech last night, President Trump proved that he can act presidential and assume the ceremonial duties of president. He inspired much of the country with optimism after eight years of national malaise.

The question is how long the new, presidential Trump will last.