Poll: 73% of Republicans say the media is abusing its First Amendment freedom of the press
Ah, big missed opportunity here by YouGov. They should have asked people to define “abuse.” Does the press abuse its freedom when it uses anonymous sources? When it publishes documents that weren’t supposed to be public? Even the obvious definitions (e.g., printing out-and-out falsehoods) could have made for interesting follow-up questions. Is it an abuse of press freedom to make an honest mistake in reporting or are only deliberate lies abusive? If the latter, should we change defamation law to make it easier for public figures like Trump to sue news outlets for good-faith mistakes?
Same question here as in the post about the Iran poll: How much of this result is driven by loyalty to Trump and how much is driven by extraneous circumstances? The White House’s war on “fake news” must be contributing to it but right-wing loathing of the press existed long before Trump and will exist long after his administration has passed into history.
This data comes from a different new poll, conducted online by UVA’s Center for Politics, but it makes Republican disdain for the media more, shall we say, vivid:
That’s an interesting result because Trump has claimed more than once, including at CPAC this year, that his quote about the press has been distorted and misunderstood. He never said the media is the enemy of the American people, he reminds people. He said the “fake news media” is the enemy. It was just a few days ago that he reiterated the distinction between the media proper, which he loves loves loves almost as much as he loves things with his name emblazoned on them (which pretty well describes most of American media day to day), and the “fake news” subset. The Center for Politics didn’t make that distinction, though, and neither did the Republicans they surveyed. To Republicans, either the entire media is “fake news” or even the non-fake stuff is enemy action. In fact, a separate question asked by CFP of Trump voters confirms that he’s essentially immune from media criticism among his base. “When you hear the media being critical of Donald Trump,” the pollster asked, “does their criticism make you question your support for him, or does it reinforce that he’s on the right track in terms of shaking things up in Washington, D.C.?” Result: 12/88.
Here’s Jake Tapper nudging CNN viewers to remember that the media-critic-in-chief produces plenty of “fake news” himself. One last data point worth mentioning, this time from YouGov: When asked how important the media is in determining how well presidents do their jobs, Trump voters were much more likely to say “not important” (45 percent) than the population at large was (27 percent). Trump would probably say the same thing if asked knowing that that’s what he’s supposed to say, if only to deny the press any sense that they have leverage over him, but if ever there was a politician who really obviously views the media as crucial to his performance, it’s the tabloid mainstay turned reality-show star turned president Donald Trump, a.k.a. John Barron. This is a guy who boasts about Sean Spicer’s “ratings” and who has allegedly ruled out people for cabinet positions based on their appearance. In his heart of hearts, in an age of ubiquitous media, I bet he thinks media management is 90 percent of his job, which is of course insane. It’s no more than 75 percent.