Give people three choices on how the press treats POTUS — too critical, fairly, not critical enough — and the first option wins a plurality because Republicans almost unanimously agree on it. But that plurality is really just another way of saying that a majority doesn’t think the media’s being too critical. They’re either treating him fairly or they’re going easy on him(!).
Which is amazing, since by Newsbusters’s count, fully 91 percent of media buzz about POTUS in the first four months of this year has been negative. Granted, many a dopey presidential tweet has been fired off during that period and the personal/personnel drama has been relentless. But there’s also been a breakthrough with North Korea and an economy strong enough to lift the number of Americans who say the U.S. is doing well to the highest level in more than 10 years. Ninety-one percent negative seems, shall we say, a touch excessive under the circumstances.
The racial and gender divides on this question are what you’d expect, with whites and men skewing towards the view that Trump’s coverage is too critical and nonwhites and women skewing towards fair or not critical enough. There’s an age gap too. Younger adults, especially young women, are so anti-Trump that they alone may account for why the needle among the total overall population tilts away from the idea that the press treats him unfairly.
Men 35 and over are solidly in Trump’s camp whereas younger men and women 35 and over tilt decidedly but not overwhelmingly in the other direction. The killer group is young women, with 71 percent saying Trump is treated either fairly or not harshly enough.
Still, there’s some awareness even among Dems that coverage of Trump has been critical on the whole, even though maybe not enough to suit their tastes. You can see in the partisan split above that Republicans are almost unanimously in the “too harsh” camp. (There are differences among centrist Republicans and those who skew more conservative but not dramatic ones. Ninety-two percent of conservatives say the media treats Trump too harshly versus 77 percent of moderate or liberal GOPers.) Among Democrats, though, whose opinions are often the mirror image of Republicans’, the split is more balanced. A plurality, in fact, say that Trump has been treated fairly rather than not critically enough. In our hyperpartisan times, you have to hit one team’s political enemy awfully hard for that team to say, “Okay, no need to hit any harder.”
The other interesting detail in this survey is how stable the numbers are. Over the past 15 months we’ve endured the Comey firing, lots of cabinet churn, endless Russiagate developments, the Stormy Daniels clusterfark, and on and on, and yet the public’s general sense of media coverage is stable: The overall numbers here are within two points of where they were in February 2017. That makes me think opinion on this subject has less to do with what the media’s actually saying and doing and more to do with partisan biases that are largely baked in. On the other hand:
Independents have inched up in believing coverage has not been critical enough (31% say so now, versus 25% in 2017)…
Slightly more (51%) now say the news media gives too much attention to Trump’s relationship with Russia, whereas slightly less (45%) say the media pays too little or the right amount of attention to the situation.
Nearly a year ago, Americans were almost evenly divided (48% vs 49%) on this question.
This is the second poll I’ve seen in a week showing growing public fatigue with Russiagate. A few days ago, Monmouth found a decline in the share of Americans who say the investigation should continue, from 60 percent in March to 54 percent now. Those numbers aren’t worth a presidential tweet yet but if the probe meanders on for, say, another three months into late summer with the midterms looming ahead, you may see real erosion in support for Mueller. Time to show some cards.
Oh, one last figure: Asked whether they trust CNN or Trump more, the public splits 49/43. Oof.