Donald Trump loves to boast that he is “like, a really smart person” — certainly smarter than the media. He’s right in this regard: The Republican presidential front-runner seems to understand intuitively voter sentiments that the press struggles to grasp.
The latest evidence of this inconvenient reality arrived over the weekend when NBC News and Esquire announced that they have teamed up to create what they’re calling the “rage survey,” which polls “the sources and expressions of American anger.” The media giants didn’t mention Trump by name in a news release, but Esquire editor in chief David Granger said they “wanted to understand where the anger originates that is fueling the extreme nature of our presidential politics.”
Translation: Trump’s angry rhetoric is resonating more strongly than we anticipated, and we want to find out what the heck is going on.
Don’t get me wrong; I like this idea. In fact, the poll yielded some fascinating insights. Here are just a few, as summarized by NBC and Esquire:
- There is a strong correlation between a high degree of anger (seen mostly prominently among white men and women) and the sense that the United States is no longer the most powerful country in the world.
- 73 percent of Hispanics and 63 percent of blacks believe immigrants strengthen our country; only 43 percent of whites agree.
- Three out of four black Americans believe police killings are part of a broader systemic pattern, while three out of five white Americans think they are isolated incidents.
The thing is, Trump doesn’t need a survey to tell him these things. He might not know the exact numbers, but he knows the basic dynamics they represent. In fact, they form the foundation of his campaign strategy, from his slogan (“Make America Great Again”) to his proposed wall along the Southern border.
The press, meanwhile, has been surprised at every turn by Trump’s sustained success. Pundits have predicted wrongly over and over and over again that the billionaire’s big mouth will do him in this time — well, surely this time — and yet he continues to lead the GOP field. The chairman of the Republican National Committee is now saying Trump could win a general election.
We need a poll to take the temperature of the electorate, while Trump has known for months (and probably longer) that it has a fever. And the only prescription is more
What’s truly remarkable is that Trump, a Wharton-educated tycoon who has never before run for office, is so in touch with the low-income, less-formally educated voters who form much of his support base. Is he a good listener? Highly perceptive? Maybe he just has good instincts. Maybe all three are true.
And maybe the media should think about why Trump is so much better at reading people’s moods than it is.