Is the media going to remain oblivious to Trump’s popularity?

The only true constant in American politics is that too much is made of almost everything. Narratives overtake facts and spin tops reality in the desire to “break news.”

One of the current favorites of the mass media is to describe President Trump as massively unpopular. To be clear, I don’t think this narrative was made up on purpose. I believe that many people working in the media actually believe this to be true.

{mosads}The problem is, it’s just not true. I will not poll shop my way to a conclusion here. 


Every poll has a different construct and its own target polling audience.  Targets vary by polling company – some poll all adults, some poll folks who claim they are registered voters, some poll only folks who actually are registered to vote and others only poll people who have actually voted. To state the obvious: the target audience can greatly change a poll’s result.

The one common thread to polling this past cycle is basically: nobody got it right.  But some were much closer than others. Those pollsters that came close were ridiculed before Election Day as having lost their minds – if not their integrity and credibility – for daring to report on what was actually happening.

So, let’s look at one poll over time. I choose Rasmussen because, while I don’t always agree with their methodology, they do it the same way every day and have been doing it that same way for many years.

Each day they poll likely voters and ask if they approve of the job the president is doing, and every day that number fluctuates. Two key factors in those changes are the composition those who are polled and of course current events that alter the attitudes of American voters about their president.

Recently, New York Magazine published a piece titled, “Trump is Making the GOP Heinously Unpopular Again.” CNN ran a piece entitled “Is Trump Already a Lame Duck President?” Bloomberg went with a story called “The Cost of Trump’s Deepening Unpopularity.”

With thoughtful stories like these, it might be fair for some folks to feel like it’s like time to pack it in and beg Hillary to lead us.

The problem is these stories are based on a narrative, not a fact pattern. This week, Rasmussen has Trump at 48 percent approval against 52 percent who disapprove. 

Stop right there. I know what you are going to say: That I am poll shopping and that there are other polls with lower numbers. Yes there are, but you’re wrong.

I am only looking at Rasmussen over the last eight years. I am using the same poll with the same construct and the same methodology.

I am not trying to blend a bunch of bad polls into a bad average. I am not trying to disprove that Trump’s numbers are lower among all adults than actual adults who vote.

Generally speaking, almost every number is amplified by folks who believe they have a right to complain, even though they choose not to do anything about it on Election Day.

Rasmussen talks to voters. Voters choose leaders.

So Rasmussen has Trump at 48 percent approval. When has any sitting president been so unpopular? The answer to that question is Sept. 27, 2016 – merely six and a half months ago. That president was Barack Obama. And, for historical purposes here, a 48 percent approval rating for him was an uptick.  In fact, in all of 2015, Obama scored better than 48 percent approval on fewer than 45 days.

It is hardly unprecedented for a president to have an approval rating in the mid-forties. I hate to again bring up historical facts, but in the ancient times – by which I mean 2014 – Real Clear Politics posted Obama’s average approval for the year at 42.5 percent.

I cannot speak for President Obama, but I would say it is a safe bet that he would have loved to be as popular as President Trump is now during the midterm elections of 2014.

Last fall, I was in a meeting at CNN with all of their “political experts.”  They asked me what I thought was going to happen. I told them I thought the election was going to be much closer than they thought and that Trump had a path to win. They told me I was “crazy.”

The media still hasn’t learned anything from the 2016 election. They still believe their friends and colleagues are a true and accurate representation of America. They still form narratives based on what they hear from their friends instead of actually listening to Americans in places they prefer not to spend time.

If you believe that Trump is massively unpopular, I am afraid you are not listening. You are ignoring reality either by choice or omission.

If you didn’t see the outcome of the last election, please stop and ask yourself why?  What polluted your mind? Question your expertise and sharpen it, because it is hurting journalism as an institution.

Barry Bennett (@GOPBarryBennett) is a partner at Avenue Strategies in Washington, D.C. He was a senior advisor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

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

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