2020 voters never cared about the Russia investigation

A CNN poll released earlier this week found that the Russia investigation does not register at all on the list of important issues for voters in the 2020 election. The poll was taken before the Mueller report was completed and issued to Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrProsecutors are mainly to blame for the criminal justice crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes 10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall MORE

The poll was an open-ended question, meaning those polled can pick as many issues as they wish — and not one chose Russia.  

“This is a recent poll we just did, we open-ended it, said okay, ‘What’s the most important issue for your 2020 vote?’" CNN senior writer and forecaster Harry Enten told the network's morning program, "New Day." "So voters could say pretty much anything. But look at this. Look at the Russia investigation. Zero percent said that it was the most important to their vote in 2020."

ADVERTISEMENT

“Zero, zero, zero respondents said Russia,” he continued. “One thing we were talking about health care obviously, the Trump administration wants to get rid of the ACA. Look at that, it ranked significantly higher. So of the news that’s kind of come out this week of things that are important to people’s vote in 2020, I would honestly argue that the health care news is far more important than the Russia investigation.”

The poll helped underscore the disconnect between what many in the media saw as the most consequential political story since Watergate and what the feeling on the ground was where the sentiment seemed to be: When the Mueller report is done, wake us up then about all-things-Russia and tell us what's in it.

In the meantime, they appear to be saying, we'd prefer to hear less random, baseless speculation about Trump and Russian collusion and more about things that impact our lives: health care, the economy and what the numbers mean in terms of my family's financial situation, and perhaps more on each of the 2020 Democratic candidates. We'd also like to hear more about a topic that is likely impacting every American's life, directly or otherwise: the opioid epidemic that killed more than 70,000 people in 2017 and has ruined the lives of millions of families.   

White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley says there were more than 8,500 stories on the Russia probe by the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC since the investigation began.

ADVERTISEMENT

An analysis published in Axios also found that more than 530,000 web articles focusing on Russia, President TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE have been published since the special counsel's investigation launched in May 2017. The data compiled by social media analytics company NewsWhip also found that the articles generated an eye-popping 245 million interactions, including likes, comments and shares on social media giants Twitter and Facebook.

In the end, the special counsel found no collusion between Trump, his associates and Russia. Many heads of news organizations contend they simply followed the collusion story and reported the facts. But when it comes to collusion, how can that be true? Mueller and his team didn't leak. Collusion per Mueller never happened. So what else is left but speculation? And in this case, almost all of it ended in pointing a finger at or strongly implying that Trump and his allies for engaging what some called a treasonous act. 

The disconnect between the press and the people is a movie we've seen before: In 2016, Trump's stunning victory was just that to almost all of the political chattering class. That's because the people telling us the real estate mogul and reality TV star had no chance to win never left their ivory towers in New York and Washington, where basically all of the national media are located. 

Very few reporters ventured out to those "blue wall" states that ultimately handed Trump the presidency: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The mood of the country can't be gauged in New York or Washington alone. The real story was missed as a result. 

Sizzle also trumps steak in the media. Palace intrigue always takes precedent over boring old policy on things like trade deals with China or prescription drug prices or improving infrastructure. And nothing beats an unnamed source who claims to be close to person X who has something really scandalous to say about person Y. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Will things improve? Likely not. There's a presidential election already fully underway. There are no more off days. 

Without accountability or contrition, bad actors in our media in front of and behind the camera will continue to make the same mistakes. And you know what they say about insanity: It's repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. 

Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill and host of "What America's Thinking."