His job approval in this poll is 44/48 and his favorable rating is 43/47, broadly in line with the margin of the popular vote in November, which makes the numbers on how the media’s been treating him so interesting. There’s a small but significant chunk of the public that doesn’t much like Trump but which believes nonetheless that the press is giving him a bad rap.
Republicans are also fully on board with Trump’s frequent accusations that the media is manufacturing “fake news” to undermine his presidency.
Asked if they believe that the news media is “exaggerating the problems with the Trump administration because they are uncomfortable and threatened with the kind of change Trump represents,” a whopping 89 percent of Republicans agreed. On that measure, a majority of all Americans – 53 percent – also say the same, although that includes just 21 percent of Democrats.
I wouldn’t have used the word “just” in that last sentence. Trump’s favorable rating in this poll among Democrats is nine percent. There’s tremendous partisan pressure on the left pushing against the idea that criticism of him is somehow illegitimate or unfair. To get a fifth of the party to say anyway that the media’s exaggerating his problems, the perceptions of bias must be awfully strong, even among the opposition. And that’s not the only question on which a majority overall sides with Trump on the subject of bias:
Media questions weren’t the only ones where the answers were more pro-Trump than you’d expect given his tepid job approval. Byron York notes an uptick in optimism:
The Journal-NBC pollsters asked 1,000 adults, “When you think about the future of the country, would you say that you are mainly hopeful and optimistic or mainly worried and pessimistic?” Sixty percent said they feel hopeful and optimistic, while 40 percent said they feel worried and pessimistic. That hopeful number is higher than when the Journal last asked the question in December 2016 (when it was 56 percent), and in August 2016 (54 percent), and September 2005 (53 percent)…
There are other indicators in the Journal-NBC poll that suggest good feelings among Americans in the wake of Trump’s victory. The pollsters asked, “During the next twelve months, do you think that the nation’s economy will get better, get worse, or stay about the same?” Forty-one percent said they expect the economy to get better, versus just 21 percent who expect it to get worse and 36 percent who expect the economy to stay the same. That 41 percent, plus 42 percent who expected better times in the Journal’s poll last month, are the highest expectation numbers in the Journal’s polling since October 2012, right before Barack Obama was re-elected.
The stock market rally since Trump’s victory is, I assume, the main driver of that. What’s the main driver in perceptions of unfairness by the media, though — a striking result given that just last week a different poll found 52 percent trust the media to tell them the truth more than they trust versus 37 percent who said the opposite? I’d guess it has less to do with outright errors in coverage than a combination of the leak-o-rama that’s currently plaguing the White House, overt disdain from big-name commentators of the sort seen here, plus the phenomenon described by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry of reporters covering Trump’s own errors without full context. The “last night in Sweden” screw-up is a vintage example: Of course Trump should be called out on his obvious mistake, but if you’re going to upbraid him for getting something about immigration in Sweden wrong, make sure your readers/viewers understand where his skepticism about that is coming from. Above and apart from all that, the media has made no bones of the fact that it sees itself as an aggressive check on Trump, even the last line of defense for democracy, and it’s accepted that role with enthusiasm. Of course the public, including some Democrats, will notice that oppositional posture and perceive unfairness towards Trump in it vis-a-vis how Obama was treated.
Assuming the job approval numbers here are accurate, his war with the media isn’t helping him build support among the general public but it may be helping him hold support among Republicans who are otherwise skittish about his first month. Time will tell, but skipping the odious, elitist White House Correspondents Dinner can only improve his standing among his base. Exit quotation from Sean Spicer, all but admitting that the NYT, Politico, et al. really were barred from the press gaggle on Friday because of their critical coverage of Trump: “We’re going to aggressively push back… We’re just not going to sit back and let false narratives, false stories and inaccurate facts get out there.”