Fun times politically in the ol’ U.S. of A. The most shocking result here: When asked about the media, not even half of Republicans were willing to call them an “enemy.” Do Trump’s warnings mean nothing?
Important caveat: Slightly more than half of Trump’s own voters, in contrast to Republicans generally, do regard the media as an “enemy.”
Among Republicans, 43 percent say the media is an “enemy” while another 35 percent say it’s “unfriendly.” Interestingly, despite endless whining from Democrats online that the media is either too right-wing or insufficiently left, fully 60 percent of Democrats polled here acknowledge that the media is either an “ally” or “friendly.” I wonder about the phrasing of the questions, though. Instead of asking straightforwardly “Do you regard the media as an enemy?”, YouGov asked “Would you say that the media is an enemy to people like you?” Phrasing it that way leaves it unclear to the respondent which way the hostility is supposed to be running in the “enemy” relationship. I can imagine someone being asked “Would you say that the media is an enemy to people like you?” and interpreting it as “Do you think the media dislikes people like you?” rather than “Do you dislike the media?” There’s bound to be a lot of overlap between those two answers, but they won’t be identical. In fact, maybe that ambiguity helps explain why Trump voters are more likely to answer this question in the affirmative than Republicans generally. Trump fans may be more sensitive to ways in which the media seems like they’re out to get Trump — i.e. that the media is treating him, and them, as enemies rather than vice versa.
As for the partisan question, 40 percent of Democrats say that Republicans are an enemy to people like them. When you flip that question around, though, 56 percent of Republicans say the same about Democrats. Why the imbalance? One possibility: Trump is serving as a lightning rod for Democratic animosity right now whereas, because there’s no single standout Democratic Party leader, Republicans’ animosity towards Democrats is directed more broadly at the party itself. And in fact, here’s what happens when you ask Democrats about Trump specifically:
Fifty-six percent of Democrats call Trump an enemy, a mirror image of how Republicans feel about Democrats. Still, the partisan imbalance is intriguing: Could it be that Dems really don’t feel as much animosity for Republicans as vice versa? When YouGov asked Trump voters how they feel about Clinton voters, 41 percent put them in the “enemy” box and another 50 percent called them “unfriendly.” But when Clinton voters were asked about Trump voters, just 31 percent called them “enemies” and 46 percent called them “unfriendly” — another imbalance. My best guess is that Clinton voters have an easier time sympathizing with people who voted for Trump than vice versa. A vote for Hillary was a vote for the status quo; a vote for Trump was a vote for radical change of a system that Americans across the political spectrum have come to dislike, including and especially Sanders supporters on the left. Even people who didn’t vote for change can understand to some extent why others did. Plus, with all that’s been written about Trump’s base, the white working class that’s been punished by globalization, Clinton voters can appreciate why Trump voters might have felt desperate enough to roll the dice on him. They’re not ideological enemies so much as a constituency that’s hurting economically and wandered away from the Democratic Party after being neglected. Even people who don’t subscribe to populism can see virtue in it, whatever their feelings about Trump. Finding the virtue in handing four years to Crooked Hillary was harder.
Speaking of which, a reminder that labeling the opposition “enemies” (not to mention “deplorable”) has a way of not working out for politicians.