Most voters disapprove of the way the media covers President Trump. Most also disapprove of the way Trump talks about the media.
Those are among the findings of a Quinnipiac University poll published on Wednesday. The approval and disapproval rates for the president and the press are almost identical, when the question is how they treat each other.
Missing from the survey is a follow-up question: Why?
The natural assumptions, of course, are that voters who disapprove of the media's Trump coverage do so because they consider the press too negative, and that voters who disapprove of Trump's media rhetoric do so because they consider him too harsh. These are not necessarily safe assumptions, however.
Previous polling has shown that some voters view Trump coverage as too soft. Shortly after Trump's inauguration, 28 percent of American adults told Gallup that coverage of the president and his administration was “not tough enough.” Around the same time, 32 percent in a Marist University poll agreed, and 22 percent in a CNN poll said Trump coverage was “not critical enough.”
In an Associated Press poll in March last year, 24 percent of U.S. adults also said Trump coverage was “not critical enough.” And when Gallup asked its question again last July, 34 percent said coverage was insufficiently tough.
It is possible that views have changed in recent months; there appears to be no new polling on the media's level of criticism. But a sizable share of the people who disapprove of Trump coverage might be unsatisfied because they want reporters to get tougher.
It also could be that some unhappy media consumers' grievance is that the press simply covers Trump too much. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, a conservative critic of the president, wrote on Wednesday that during the 2016 election season, Trump managed to “turn news channels into infomercials for his campaign” and that those channels made “the decision to hand day after day of free coverage to Donald Trump's rallies, outrages, feuds and personal attacks.”
As for the way Trump talks about the media, it is hard to imagine that many voters disapprove because they think he is too nice.
Still, it is possible that there are voters who fault the president for not taking his media bashing further. Trump routinely refers to the Times as “failing” and “dying,” yet the newspaper's subscription revenue increased by 14.5 percent in 2017, contributing to an operating profit of $112.4 million.
Trump predicted at the end of 2015 that New Hampshire's largest newspaper would be out of business in two years. He was wrong.
Speaking about print publications, in general, Trump as a candidate said that “most of them won't be around for much longer, in my opinion. They're going down.”
Media companies face business challenges, to be sure, but Trump has not decimated them in the way some of his supporters might have hoped. In fact, Trump's current theory is that many media companies survive because of him.
“The media will absolutely support me sometime prior to the  election,” he said at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month. “All those horrible people are going to support me. You know why? Because if somebody else won, the ratings would go down, and they would all be out of business.”
The notion that Trump is actually propping up the press by constantly attacking it might be enough to make some supporters question whether his taunts and insults are such a good idea.
In any case, the latest polling on Trump and the media reveals displeasure with both but not the sources of voters' frustrations.