In President Trump’s politics, there are no permanent polling allies, just permanent polling interests. There is no consistent metric by which he gauges his presidency other than cherry-picking metrics in which his presidency is seen in a favorable light.
There are certainly polls Trump highlights over and over because they consistently bolster his narrative. On over a dozen occasions, for example, Trump has hyped a poll in which he is at 50 percent approval — including three times this month. In nearly every case, those polls are from Rasmussen Reports, a pollster that’s almost always more favorable to Trump than other pollsters.
Trump also tends to see Fox News polling as friendly to him, probably because he understands how friendly the poll’s parent network is. (On Thursday, Trump gave his 12th interview to Fox News’s Sean Hannity — his 48th on Fox since being inaugurated.) He’s been a bit cranky with Fox of late, given that the network has dared to hold events with Democratic 2020 contenders. (He needn’t worry.) But generally, he seems to have expectations when it comes to their polling.
On Friday morning, though, he got mad.
Fox News “is at it again,” he tweeted. “So different from what they used to be during the 2016 Primaries, & before — Proud Warriors!"
Proud warriors? Anyway, he continued.
“Now new Fox Polls, which have always been terrible to me (they had me losing BIG to Crooked Hillary), have me down to Sleepy Joe,” he wrote. “Even considering the fact that I have gone through a three year vicious Witch Hunt, perpetrated by the Lamestream Media in Collusion with Crooked and the Democrat Party, there can be NO WAY, with the greatest Economy in U.S. history, that I can be losing to the Sleepy One.”
“Sleepy Joe” is the president’s settled-upon pejorative for former vice president Joe Biden. Fox’s poll had Biden leading Trump by 10 points, the widest margin since ... a Post-ABC poll that came out earlier this month.
Now, we will hasten to point out that Trump’s objection to Fox News polling is possibly largely due to the fact that they’re good polls. Fox’s on-air programming is often heavily weighted in Trump’s favor, but their polling isn’t. (That can lead, at times, to interesting poll results that are problematic to the president not getting much play.) For example, despite Trump’s presentation of the 2016 result as inaccurate, Fox’s last poll before that election had Hillary Clinton leading nationally by 4 points. She won by 2.1.
This is the actual source of Trump’s frustration: Objectivity isn’t as flattering to him as subjectivity.
What really frustrated Trump on Friday was that the result from the head-to-head against Biden was televised. That’s how Trump came across it, of course; he was tuning in to “Fox and Friends,” as he usually does, and they aired that number. Trump grabbed his phone. (On air, Trump ally Pete Hegseth rushed to cover the poll result with asterisks.)
Trump hates Fox News’s polling because they have always been “terrible” to him and wildly inaccurate. Why can’t they be more like the poll he hyped earlier this week, which he enthusiastically tweeted about because it said the economy was the best in “DECADES!” Or why can’t Fox have positive polls, like the one he tweeted on Thursday showing his approval on the economy was at 52 percent? Why must Fox insist on instead presenting only negative views of his performance?
I mean, look. It’s not new that Trump would hype a pollster only to later turn on it as inaccurate. That happened regularly in 2016 when a poll would show him leading the Republican primary field but, months later, show him trailing Clinton. It’s also not new that Trump would lift up only poll numbers that show him doing well.
It is, however, unusual for Trump to disparage as biased the literal exact same poll he’d just hyped. In fact, even the two results shown in the tweets above reflect a similar pattern. At 7:54 a.m. he celebrates the historic “DECADES” economic numbers. (“Fox and Friends” host Steve Doocy on economic confidence: “The last time this many felt that way was almost two decades ago.”) At 8:07 a.m.? Trump’s irritated that his approval on the economy is only 52 percent — in the same poll.
There is not now and, at no point, has there ever been any reason to assume that President Trump’s presentation of poll results is motivated by any consistency or interest in sharing an accurate reflection of the views of the country. Trump is selling his presidency the way he’d sell a one-bedroom condo in Trump Tower: Ignore the leaky shower and damaged countertops and focus instead on the views of Fifth Avenue.
Then you show up for a viewing and learn that the view is obstructed.