Why the polls are so 'all over the place' about Trump

The 2016 election was the one that broke the polls. Politicians, journalists, and even Nate Silver got it wrong. Now just over a month into the Donald Trump Administration, polls are back and making headlines.

This time, it's presidential approval ratings. At his recent press conference, President Trump said, "our new Rasmussen poll just came out, just a very short while ago and it has our approval rating at 55 percent and going up." At the same time, you'll get report after report about the president's historically low numbers.

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U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump step from Air Force One to attend a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: People listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump applauds his crowd as he holds a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: President Donald Trump kisses his wife Melania Trump during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump smiles a as he holds a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump invites a supporter onstage with him during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: People attend a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump kisses his wife Melania during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A supporter awaits the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump for a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive for a rally on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: President Donald Trump and Melania Trump are seen during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump step from Air Force One as they arrive for a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump hugs a supporter he invited onstage to speak during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump acknowledge supporters during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump invites a supporter onstage with him during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with reporters aboard Air Force One on his way to a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive at a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during his "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges supporters during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
US President Donald Trump listens as his wife, First Lady Melania Trump recites the Lord's Prayer during a rally in Melbourne, Florida on February 18, 2017. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: People attend a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump addresses a rally at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. / AFP / Gregg Newton (Photo credit should read GREGG NEWTON/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: President Donald Trump is seen during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump addresses a rally at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: A woman shows off her middle fingers as she and others look on at the media during a campaign rally by President Donald Trump at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: President Donald Trump kisses his wife Melania Trump during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: President Donald Trump and Melania Trump are seen during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: President Donald Trump and Melania Trump stand together during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
First Lady Melania Trump salutes the crowd after introducing her husband, US President Donald Trump at the start of a rally at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. / AFP / Gregg Newton (Photo credit should read GREGG NEWTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump hold signs during a rally on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Herb Planchock waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump for a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Ken Temple waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump for a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: People wait for the arrival of President Donald Trump for a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: People wait for the arrival of President Donald Trump for a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Gary Snow of Jacksonville, Florida, a supporter of US.President Donald Trump, stages a lone vigil against anti-government protesters during a rally at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017. / AFP / Gregg Newton / Gregg Newton (Photo credit should read GREGG NEWTON/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Billy Mauro waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump for a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Thousands of supporters of US President Donald Trump form a long queue for a rally at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017. / AFP / Gregg Newton / Gregg Newton (Photo credit should read GREGG NEWTON/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Robie Potts waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump for a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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It's enough to create confusion. That may be why you find people picking and choosing which poll to agree with. But as Nate Silver points out, one thing to watch out for is the type of poll.

Let's use the president's approval ratings as an example. There's a big spread among polls. Trump's favorite poll, Rasmussen shows the president with a 55% approval rating while Pew Research has him at 39%.

The trend Nate Silver reveals shows live telephone interview polls, like Pew, Gallup and CBS News, all have the president with the three lowest approval ratings. At the same time, online or automated telephone polls, like Rasmussen, Morning Consult, and Zogby, all show the president with the three highest approval ratings.

Another reason, Silver says reveals a major difference in numbers, is the type of people that are polled. Among polls who survey registered and likely voters, Trump enjoys higher ratings. While polls who survey all adults, the president's job approval sinks.

Now, it's not like the art of cherry picking polls is new. It's been a favorite American political pastime for decades. But when the national conversation is about the media as much as the politicians, it's important to know where everybody is getting their numbers.

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