Over the last three months, the national news media has become obsessed with the idea that Donald Trump’s voters are just about ready to abandon him, despite an utter lack of evidence for that narrative. Perhaps they should have been looking after their readers and viewers. A new Morning Consult-Politico poll on public trust shows that only 29% of Americans trust political media to tell them the truth. Guess who scores eight points better?
As political journalists prepare to gather at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday to celebrate their work, a new Morning Consult poll is likely to make many of them cringe.
In the new poll, roughly half (51 percent) of Americans said the national political media “is out of touch with everyday Americans,” compared with 28 percent who said it “understand the issues everyday Americans are facing.”
President Donald Trump, a frequent public antagonist of the press and the first president in 36 years to skip the confab, is also slightly more trusted than the national political media. Thirty-seven percent of Americans said they trusted Trump’s White House to tell the truth, while 29 percent opted for the media.
Eight points isn’t exactly “slightly.” And while this outcome has definite partisan influence, the fact that a Republican president can overcome the normal lean toward Democrats (in this case, only D+1) still says something about the eight-point difference. And even among Democrats, the numbers hardly constitute an endorsement:
Note that this question is framed as a binary: which do you trust more? Thirty-four percent of Democrats can’t answer that question when one of the options is Donald Trump. Only slightly more than half of Democrats commit to trusting the media more, and twelve percent trust the White House, slightly less than the 10% of Republicans who trust the national media more with the truth. Among independents, the results get closer to a wash, but the White House still has the edge at 28/25.
A few other surprises pop out from the demographics. The majorities in either direction result almost entirely from the partisan or ideological demos, which is to be expected. All three income demos choose Trump’s White House, however, by seven point differences in all three — even among those earning less than $50,000 (34/27). The ethnic demos choose the national media, but by surprisingly small leads; among Hispanics, it’s a virtual tie at 35/32, while African-Americans choose the national media by only 44/12, with 44% undecided. Trump scores strongly in most religious demos, including a 50/23 among Protestants and 41/32 among Catholics, and even edges the media 38/36 among Jewish voters. The media gets the nod among atheists and agnostics, but only by six points, 31/25.
So why does the media come off worst in its battle against Trump? In part because its consumers know that they’re battling Trump. Respondents said that the media has been harder rather than easier on Trump than any other president by a 3:1 margin (48/16) and harder rather than the same by a 2:1 margin (48/23). That impression gets more stark as respondents get older, too; it’s only 38/19/20 among 18-29YOs, but it becomes 59/7/27 among seniors. Which of these demos have the historical perspective for this analysis?
In other words, the masks have come off. Perhaps the White House Correspondents Dinner should try a masquerade tomorrow night … or perhaps they should get back to reporting the news rather than trying to craft wish-fulfillment narratives.