Few voters think the media does a fair job covering President Donald Trump. But they are equally divided on whether news organizations are too tough on the president, or whether they go too easy on him, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted as coverage of his incendiary rhetoric has come under heightened scrutiny by both Democrats and Republicans.
Thirty-seven percent of respondents believe the media is “too tough” on Trump, while the same percentage believe the media is “not tough enough.” Fifteen percent think the media’s treatment of Trump is “just right,” while 11 percent don’t know or have no opinion.
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The responses are split sharply along party lines, with 75 percent of Republicans polled finding the media is “too tough” on the president, and 69 percent of Democrats finding the media is “not tough enough.” Among independent voters, 32 percent believe the media is “too tough” and 31 percent believe they are “not tough enough.”
Media outlets have debated in recent weeks how to characterize Trump’s attacks on four liberal congresswomen of color and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings’ predominantly black, Baltimore-based congressional district.
Newsrooms’ deliberations continued following a mass shooting earlier this month in El Paso, Texas. The gunman who confessed to carrying out the massacre wrote an anti-Hispanic manifesto before opening fire at a Walmart in the Southwestern border town, murdering 22 people.
Numerous national Democrats have linked Trump’s inflammatory immigration oratory — including his repeated warnings of a migrant “invasion” and disparaging descriptions of Mexicans — to the violence, and were outraged by a New York Times headline following the killings which they claimed did not account for the president’s role in stoking racial divisions.
Trump complained after the Times altered its controversial five-word banner following the reader backlash, and he has continued his near-daily criticisms of the “Fake News Media,” which he tweeted Saturday “may be the most corrupt and disgusting business (almost) there is!”
While Trump has accused the media of entering into “a sick partnership” with his Democratic rivals, the president’s allies have denounced decisions by some news outlets to brand his more inflammatory remarks as racist.
A majority of survey respondents, 67 percent, said they believe it is the media’s responsibility to draw attention to a politician’s racist statements, with 23 percent believing it is the media’s “main responsibility.”
“Bipartisan agreement holds that the media should combat misinformation, but partisan opinions diverge on whether it applies to scrutiny over President Trump,” said Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s vice president. “Notably, 63 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of Democrats believe it’s the media’s main responsibility to stop the spread of fake news. However, while 75 percent of Republicans believe the media’s too tough on Trump, only 6 percent of Democrats say the same.”
The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll was conducted August 9-11, surveying 1,993 registered voters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Morning Consult is a nonpartisan media and technology company that provides data-driven research and insights on politics, policy and business strategy.