The Volokh Conspiracy

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No, a survey doesn't show that 1 in 10 couples have broken up over their views on Trump


I don't know what to think about the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey, but I do know this. Fox News Politics reports:

Couples are fighting over President Trump more than ever, and many are turning to divorce court to get out of their politically ravaged marriages.

New data from Wakefield Research found that one in 10 couples, married and not, have ended their relationships in a battle over Trump. For younger millennials, it's 22 percent.

[UPDATE: The Fox News Politics piece was drawn from a Washington Examiner piece, presumably through some content-sharing arrangement; the underlying Washington Examiner piece has now been revised to some extent, but the Fox News version has not been, or at least not yet.]

The 1 in 10 seemed high to me: You'd need a couple whose members have been politically mismatched in the past year or so (give or take a few months, depending on when the Trump enthusiasm set in), feel strongly about politics, and are willing to end their relationships over Trump in just that limited time.

Sure enough, when I asked the Wakefield people for the report, I saw that the 1 in 10 figure—actually, 11 percent—refers to whether a respondent has "ever, even once, broken up with a significant other over political differences" (emphasis added). That's not just Trump; it's a lifetime total. (The report does say that 24 percent of respondents state that, "since President Trump was elected, my partner and I have disagreed or argued about politics more than ever," but thankfully not every disagreement or even argument leads to a breakup.) None of Wakefield's press releases about its report said that the 1 in 10 figure referred to breakups over Trump.

The Wakefield people also tell me that the 22 percent number for millennials also refers to a lifetime total, whether the breakup was over George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Trump or whoever else. (It would also involve a substantial margin of error for the millennials, since only about 300 of the survey respondents were millennials.) So, as is often true for reports of surveys, there's some broken telephone going on here: The author of the Fox News item (which was originally posted in the Washington Examiner) must have misinterpreted the Wakefield report, and then that misinterpretation got propagated further.