Media reaction to immigration order shows it still isn't listening to voters
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE's senior advisor Steve Bannon ignited a firestorm last week when he declared that the media needs to do less talking and more listening. 

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Bannon said in a Jan. 28 with the New York Times. "I want you to quote this: The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”


Ironically, many in media failed in even sharing Bannon's full quote or understanding its context.


Instead, the first sentence was the only part presented in endless, inane cable news segments that only explored the "keep its mouth shut" part as some kind of attack on the First Amendment. Yup, even when being advised to listen, as in - and this was my interpretation — listen to voters outside of  the media bubble and the deep blue cities that house them, many in the Fourth Estate can't even get that part right. 

The first big test of Bannon's challenge came last weekend after the president signed an executive order on Jan. 22 imposing a 90-day ban on nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries (Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Sudan) entering the United States. The order also decrees a 120-day ban on admitting any refugees and an indefinite halt on accepting refugees from Syria.

After word quickly spread that a fraction (109 out of 325,000 in the first 24 hours) of those looking to enter the country were being detained at some airports across the country, large protests began popping up, particularly at New York's JFK airport and Washington's Dulles airport. Cable news pounced on the story, rightly sending reporters into the fray and getting the kind of answers one would expect from protesters and lawyers descending on the scene.

Paraphrasing: This policy is un-American. Cruel. Illegal. Authoritarian. Trump is (insert hyperbolic comparison to fascist leader here).

And this was the narrative for days. Note: This commentary is not remotely arguing the Trump team handled this rollout in any other way but clumsy. It was not very well thought out in terms of the finer details (like, for example, if green card holders would be wrongly affected). From an optics perspective, the administration obviously lost the PR battle.

But did Americans disagree with the actual executive order? We know about protester sentiment, sure. We know how Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerSenate Democrats introduce legislation to probe politicization of pandemic response Schumer interrupted during live briefing by heckler: 'Stop lying to the people' Jacobin editor: Primarying Schumer would force him to fight Trump's SCOTUS nominee MORE and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi feel about it. And after the SAG Awards on Sunday night, we definitely know how Hollywood feels about it. 

But what about the rest of the country?

According to a Reuters poll released Tuesday, 49 percent of Americans were in support of Trump's executive order, while 41 percent opposed. That's a +8 margin for those scoring at home.

Rasmussen — the polling outfit that won the closest-to-the-pin award for being the most accurate regarding the 2016 election- has support for Trump's order at 57 percent, according the data released on Monday conducted the day and day after the president signed said order.

A CBS poll released Friday morning shows support at 45 approve, 51 disapprove, a 6-point split against. The division - like seemingly everything these days - shows the country divided along party lines, with 85 percent of Republicans approving the travel ban, while just 11 percent of Democrats approving.

So add it all up, and let's call the country basically evenly split on this issue, with perhaps a small edge going to "in favor" when averaging the three polls out. 

But did the media listen to the country in its first big test, as Bannon strongly recommended?

Yes, it did. But almost solely to those against the ban, or half the country. And when the punditry and op-eds kicked in, a healthy majority of the opinion - like it was in the 2016 election - was firmly anti-Trump. 

What needs to be done more is what the New York Times recently did. The paper of record deserves credit here for getting out of the ivory towers in New York and Washington and actually speaking to those in the states formerly known as "the blue wall" to hear how people - particularly Trump supports hard and soft - view his presidency. As you'll see in this piece by Jack Healy, it's a thumbs up thus far for Trump despite the otherwise-horrific portrayal we se every other second on Twitter and in much of political media. 

But we all know there's too many egos, too many clicks to gain and too much ratings pressure to cut down on all the opinions and myopic narratives for the "mouth shut" thing that Bannon suggested to happen. 

And as we saw with how the immigration story was handled, listening to more than one perspective isn't in the cards, either.

Joe Concha is a media reporter for The Hill.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.