Donald Trump Lives In His Own Unique (And False) Version Of Reality
There's the truth, and then there's Donald Trump's version of the truth. The two are seldom related.
The Washington Post’s Philip Bump notes that President Trump continues to cite approval numbers that have no basis in reality:
A poll conducted last week by YouGov for the Economist finds something fairly unremarkable: President Trump’s job approval rating stands at 43 percent. Since he took office, that’s generally the higher end of where his approval has been, all of the movement having taken place in a narrow range.
The reason isn’t complex. Republicans love Trump and Democrats hate him, with independents on the Democratic side of the middle. In that YouGov poll, for example, Democrats give Trump an 11 percent approval, compared with 37 percent from independents and 87 percent from Republicans. Without partisans embracing or abandoning him, things don’t move a lot, which is why we call that YouGov poll result unremarkable.
There have been numerous other polls in recent weeks saying the same thing. Trump’s approval ranges from 38 percent to 44 percent; his approval among Republicans from 84 percent to 88 percent. Each of these polls looks essentially the same.
And yet here was what Trump had to offer on Monday morning.
94% Approval Rating in the Republican Party, a record. Thank you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2019
For months, Trump had been touting a 93 percent approval rating from Republicans. The first iteration of that figure that we found came from a straw poll conducted at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which is a bit like foxes claiming to be overwhelmingly popular after surveying people at a furry convention. It’s like asking about support for the Second Amendment at a gun show.
In June, though, Trump tacked on a percentage point. He first claimed to have 94 percent support from Republicans during a news conference with then-British Prime Minister Theresa May. Our fact-checkers looked into it, determining that there was no public poll showing anything of the sort. If it was an internal campaign poll, it hasn’t been made public (our fact-checkers asked). Since then, though, 94 percent has supplanted 93 percent in Trump’s rhetoric, with his touting this purported number over and over and over again.
We’ve noted in the past that Trump likes to tout the same poll numbers repeatedly. There have been more than two dozen occasions on which Trump has touted an overall approval rating of 50 percent or higher, but those are usually at least tied to existing polls. (As a general rule, those polls are from Rasmussen Reports, a pollster that tracks approval among likely voters, not all Americans, and that has consistently given Trump higher approval numbers than nearly any poll.) It’s interesting that Trump continues to tweet things like “Working hard, thank you!” as he promotes a poll number that, even according to his presentation, is the same as it has been for months.
That’s not what’s happening here. Instead, Trump appears to simply be making the figure up. Perhaps there is internal polling showing Trump with substantially higher approval than public polls, a function of who they’re asking and how they’re asking it. But Trump doesn’t even say that; he just throws out this number as though it’s real.
Trump recorded an approval rating over 92 percent among Republicans in an established poll precisely once during his first two years in office: a Suffolk University-USA Today poll from October 2018 in which he was at 94 percent. If he’s referring to that poll, though, it’s deceptive, given the challenges of relying on one poll — much less one that’s nearly a year out of date. It would also be hypocritical, given that this is a president who excoriates pollsters for showing Hillary Clinton with a substantial lead in late October 2016, ignoring that those pollsters then showed a closer race as Election Day approached.
But, again, there’s no reason to think that Trump’s poll number is actually rooted in anything real. In this particular case we say that because of the dearth of any evidence. In the abstract it’s a fair assumption because of Trump’s general disinterest in accuracy.
Trump’s insistence on continuing to cite this 94 percent number, which some have also suggested comes from an online poll conducted by the Republican National Committee earlier this year, is quite odd when you give it even a moment’s thought. As Bump notes, current polling indicates that his job approval among Republicans is generally found to be somewhere between 85% and 88% depending on which poll you look at and this number has been consistent roughly since the beginning of his Presidency. In part, of course, this is due to the fact that many people who once identified themselves as Republican in the past have come to reject the label as we’ve gotten deeper and deeper into the Trump Presidency. This means that when we’re talking about self-identified “Republicans” in these polls we are largely talking about people who support the President completely and without question notwithstanding (or in some cases because of) his policy failures, divisive rhetoric, and controversial statements.
So what explains the President’s insistence on citing a number — 94% support among Republicans — that has no basis in reality? After all, 85% to 88% job approval among one’s party members is pretty darn good, and it is the main reason that his overall job approval remains where it is rather than slipping even further into historic lows. I’ll leave that one for the readers to debate in the comments.