This is why Donald Trump keeps leading the polls

At least six polls released in July have GOP presidential contender and reality television star Donald Trump as leading the pack of Republicans in the race.

Those results may have some people scratching their heads and asking, why?

But analyzing the polling data tea leaves more than a year out from Election Day is not necessarily the best way to predict a winner. Around this time in 2007, polls put former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the lead for GOP candidates and found him to be on par with then Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Here's answers to some questions you may have about Trump's consistent surge in the polls.

Which polls have Donald Trump in the lead?

Polling data aggregator Real Clear Politics shows Trump at the top of five polls: Public Policy Poling (July 20-21), ABC/Washington Post (July 16-19), Fox News (July 13-15), USA Today/ Suffolk University (July 9-12) and Monmouth University (July 9-12). A poll taken earlier in the month (July 4-6) conducted by The Economist and YouGov also ranked Trump at the top.

But on July 22, Quinnipiac University released a poll (focusing on three swing states: Colorado, Iowa and Virginia) that found -- you guessed it -- Trump is ahead of the pack. This time, however, it's in terms of his unfavorability among likely voters in swing states.

What's helping Trumps favorability among likely voters?

Likely the most obvious factor bumping Trump in the polls is his name recognition.

Trump has been a stalwart in popular culture for more than a decade and he's in a field of 17 candidates -- 16 of which have little to zero recognition outside of the state they represent or work in. And since Trump announced his candidacy, he's been featured prominently in the news and media for various reasons, including his strong statements about hot topics and other candidates.

Another thing helping Trump in the polls is how the polls themselves are conducted.

When pollsters survey the public, they typically only reach out to a small, random sample of the public. For example, in the poll Trump dominated by the greatest margin, about a 1,002 people were surveyed. Pollsters also contact people via landlines or cellphones who they believe are "likely voters." A person falls into this category if they intend to vote in the upcoming election and have a history of voting in elections. Younger, nonwhite and urban voters are often under-represented in public polls because of these factors.

What unfavorable numbers is Trump looking at?

According to the latest poll, Donald Trump has negative favorability ratings of almost 2-1 in each swing state. Out of all candidates in the field, Democrat or Republican, Trump ranked the worst.

Why does the margin of error matter in polling?

When examining any poll, probably the most important number to look at is the sampling error, which is a number associated with the poll that reaffirms the premise of it being an educated estimation.

For example, in the Fox News poll, Trump leads with 18% and the sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points. This means Trump could be polling at as low as 15% or as high as 21%. His closest opponent, Scott Walker, sits at 15%. So Walker could be polling at as high as 18% -- making the governor of Wisconsin within the margin of error to lead this poll.

How will these polls impact the election?

The first presidential debate is in two weeks and some big GOP names, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, have already been excluded from eligibility due to their early polling numbers. This could seriously hurt those candidates already polling poorly because they will lose out on valuable media coverage and face time with voters.


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