Poll: Plurality of Americans believes media makes up stories about Trump

On the one hand, it’s an amazing testament to how far public trust in the media has fallen that more Americans than not believe they’re publishing false stories about the president.

On the other hand, how is this number not 100 percent? It’s not a matter of opinion. The media does, in fact, sometimes publish honest-to-goodness fake news about Trump and his orbit.

Actually, there’s an answer to that. The word Morning Consult used in its question was “fabricate.” Quote: “Based on what you know, do you believe the nations major news organizations fabricate news stories about President Trump and his administration, or not?” People weren’t being asked here about mere “fake news,” i.e. bad reporting or dubious sourcing. They were asked whether they think the press is inventing stuff whole cloth. And still, a plurality said yes. If there’s a more damning statistic about lost faith in journalism, I don’t know what it is:

More than three-quarters of Republican voters, 76 percent, think the news media invent stories about Trump and his administration, compared with only 11 percent who don’t think so. Among Democrats, one-in-five think the media make up stories, but a 65 percent majority think they do not. Forty-four percent of independent voters think the media make up stories about Trump, and 31 percent think they do not.

Overall the split was 46/37 but it’s the partisan numbers that are surprising. Even at 76 percent, I would have guessed the share of Republicans who believe the media makes things up about Trump would be higher. And at 20 percent, I would have guessed the share of Democrats who think the media *doesn’t* make things up would be way lower. As much as most Dems loathe Trump, a not insignificant minority of them evidently agrees with Republicans that the media’s out to get him and willing to concoct damaging stories to do it. (Surely Democrats don’t think the media is “fabricating” stories to help Trump, right? The word “fabricate” carries such a pejorative connotation, it’s hard to believe the question could have been understood that way.) It makes sense too: Most of the most damaging scoops about Trump have relied heavily on unnamed sources and the press has made no secret of its disdain for the man himself. If an adversarial institution is going to do political damage to the White House relentlessly using unverifiable information much of the time, logically some Democrats are going to withhold the benefit of the doubt that everything being reported is on the up-and-up.

This poll reminds me of the polls about NFL anthem protests, though, in that the public agrees with POTUS on the merits of his complaint but also thinks he’s gone overboard in how the problem should be solved. Most surveys find that a majority disapprove of the NFL protests but also disagree with Trump’s call for firing or suspending players who insist on protesting. Same here. The media does make things up, a plurality agrees, but revoking a broadcast network’s “license” because of it? Nuh uh:

Only 28 percent think the government should have the power to revoke broadcast licenses of major news organizations that it says are fabricating news stories about a president or the administration, while 51 percent think the government should not be able to do that. Another 21 percent are undecided.

Voters are split along party lines on this question, too. More than two-thirds of Democrats, 68 percent, think the federal government should not have the power to revoke broadcast licenses of those organizations. But more Republicans, 46 percent, think the government should have that power than the third of GOP voters who don’t think so.

A plurality of the “small government” party believes that the feds should be able to yank a network’s right to be on the air due to “fabrications,” on their own say-so? Good lord. We’re further gone than I thought.