The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

At least half of Americans think Trump and the media are ‘regularly’ wrong

President Trump and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni hold a news conference in the East Room of the White House on April 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The media says President Trump makes claims that aren’t true. Trump says the media produces fake news. And in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, at least half of Americans say both Trump and the media “regularly” disseminate false information.

Nobody looks good in this survey.

Asked whether they “think the Trump administration regularly makes false claims,” 59 percent of respondents say yes, while 35 percent say no. The media scores only slightly better on a similar question: "Do you think mainstream news organizations regularly produce false stories?" Fifty-two percent say yes, and 44 percent say no.

Unsurprisingly, Americans are divided along party lines. Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to accuse the Trump administration of falsehoods and far less likely to charge the media with the same.

Other, less-obvious correlations emerge, too. For example, perceptions of the media are better at higher education levels than at lower education levels, and the reverse is true of Trump.

Among whites and nonwhites, perceptions of the media are similar, but views of the Trump administration are dramatically different. Almost three-quarters of nonwhites say the Trump administration regularly makes false claims, compared with half of whites.

Americans are about split on whether Trump or media falsehoods are more worrisome; 43 percent say that false claims by the Trump administration are the bigger problem, while 40 percent say that false news stories are. About 1 in 10 say both are equally important.

It is worth noting that survey respondents answered using their own definitions of “regularly” and “false.” If the crux of a news report is accurate, but it includes an error requiring a correction, is the story false? If a Trump claim receives a single Pinocchio from The Washington Post Fact Checker for “some omissions and exaggerations” (see the rating system), is the statement false?

And what qualifies as regularly? The Fact Checker identified 417 false or misleading claims by the president during his first 91 days in office. That's 4.6 per day. I'd call that pretty regular, but perhaps others would not.

In any case, false claims are not necessarily a hindrance for Trump. In one of the poll's most interesting findings, 1 in 6 Trump voters agree that the president regularly makes false claims — yet cast a ballot for him anyway. And 94 percent of the president's voters approve of his job performance.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted April 17 to 20 among a random national sample of 1,004 adults interviewed on cellular and landline phones. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.