This week, a truly shocking story about Donald Trump made the rounds: He prefers his steak so well-done "it would rock on the plate."
This gustatory faux pas provoked no end of horror from food snobs. And some commentators, myself included, took things a step further, drawing parallels between the kind of person who eats overcooked steak and the kind of person who votes for Donald Trump.
"It’s interesting that preference for well done meat appears to be concentrated among the demographic groups -- older, less-educated and less-wealthy Americans -- that have formed the core of Donald Trump’s support so far," Roberto A. Ferdman and Christopher Ingraham wrote in The Washington Post.
It's an appealing narrative, one that pits the cultured elites, who know how a steak should be cooked, against the populists, who don't care how they're supposed to be serving up dinner.
The only problem? It doesn't actually hold up, as I found when The Huffington Post joined forces with YouGov to test the theory in a scientific poll.
Just 14 percent of Trump fans like their steak well-done -- a proportion that's actually smaller than the 18 percent of people nationwide who say the same.
Instead, there's more of a relationship between the kind of people who support Trump and the kind who get all judgmental about other people's steak preferences.
We asked those Americans who don't like their steak well-done whether they considered it a matter of taste ("Well-done steak wouldn't be my preference, but it's just a matter of opinion") or a matter of right versus wrong ("Steak should never be cooked well-done").
A majority of Trump supporters -- 52 percent -- said that steak should never be well-done. In comparison, 56 percent of the non-Trump supporters took the more live-and-let-live position.
It's possible that a strong preference for bloody steak is actually a sign of black-and-white thinking, rather than evidence of good taste. This would dovetail with a more substantive theory about Trump's supporters -- that they're more receptive to authoritarian ideas, like an intolerance for ambiguity. (Political science, which has a much higher tolerance for ambiguity, is divided on this point.)
Or maybe it doesn't mean much at all. Certainly that seems to be the perspective of the people we polled, who said by a 10-point margin that someone's food preferences don't really say that much about them.
Regardless, there's one more cautionary tale to be gleaned from the poll results. We wanted to find out whether or not a taste for well-done steak was, as Vox would have it, disqualifying -- so we asked Americans whether Trump's preferences would make them more or less likely to vote for him.
As you might expect, the vast majority of the country did not consider this a deciding factor in their vote. A full 11 percent of Trump supporters, though, said that the businessman's taste in steaks made them more likely to support him, while 10 percent of those backing another candidate said the opposite.
To state the obvious, it's unlikely that more than one-tenth of Americans actually see this as an important campaign issue. Instead, they're almost certainly using the question to reiterate their previously held opinions about Trump (or steaks).
That same thought process likely comes into play when polls ask about more serious subjects, too. If you see a survey that asks whether voters are more or less likely to support a candidate based on their opinions on climate change, say, or their views on gun control, remember that those may not be quite the deciding factors they seem, either.
Disclaimer: I, too, tend to enjoy beef cooked to a nice, toasty hockey puck. Come at me.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted March 15-17 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.