Media Buzz

Big-time backlash: When all polling on Donald Trump is dismissed as fake

Howard Kurtz

A Fox News poll came out the other night, and I tweeted some of the findings about President Trump.

No analysis, no commentary. Just a few numbers.

“Trump approval at 40%, down from 45% last month. 53% say his agenda is coming apart; 44% say he's shaking up Washington.”

And: “68% approve of DOJ naming a special counsel, 29% disapprove.”

Well, you’d have thought I had called for the president’s impeachment.

I practically got buried under an avalanche of angry tweets.

Most of them didn’t seem to want to engage in an actual discussion. They just attacked me, Fox, and polling in general: 

“The way Fox is headed. This poll is wrong. I talk to people from all over the US everyday. Trump is still tops. No one unhappy. All cool.”

“BS polls again. Trying to manipulate population.”

“You just don't get it.. We don't believe any b.s. polls you media types hail don't care don't believe them move on.”

“Who the hell did you poll???”

“100% of me thinks Fox is joining the MSM. Fake news.”

“Your polls are a bunch of crap. Never polled us.”

“NO ONE CARES abt the dumb polls-they were wrong calling election- case closed!”

“Stick it up your liberal [blank], Howie!”

You gotta love social media.

Now far be it from me to defend all polls. Sometimes they’re flawed, or just wrong. And the media are overly addicted to them.

You could also argue that Trump has faced consistently negative media coverage, especially over the Russia investigation, and that is depressing his numbers.

But the barrage from Trump supporters didn’t have much to do with that.

It was about simply dismissing news organizations, including Fox, and their polling as mere fiction.

Many are so persuaded that the media establishment has it in for Trump that they don’t want to hear contrary information. They are tuning it out.

I know this because of the comments I get if I analyze anything from, say, the New York Times or Washington Post, even if the stories turn out to be true. And Fox News is no longer immune to these complaints.

The Fox poll, which surveyed more than 1,000 people with a 3-point margin of error, was hardly an outlier. In the last two days, Gallup has Trump’s job approval at 39 percent, Quinnipiac at 37, Ecoomist at 40 and Reuters at 37. The exception is Rasmussen, which puts Trump at 48 percent.

The everyone-I-talk-to argument betrays a lack of understanding of how scientific polling works.

For the record, the final Fox poll before Election Day gave Hillary Clinton a 4-point lead, overstating her margin, but keep in mind that she won the popular vote. Trump is president because he won key Electoral College battlegrounds.

The troubling thing here is that we no longer agree on a common set of facts. Conservatives and liberals are increasingly in their own silos, turning to their own opinionated media sources and constructing their Facebook and Twitter feeds the same way.

If everything is fake news, then the role of news in fostering intelligent debate is decimated.

And I don’t need a poll to be sure of that.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.