Not All Polling Disapproval Numbers Are Created Equal

One can make poll numbers say anything depending on how you frame them. Donald Trump’s poll numbers were especially terrible; h is average approval rating across his entire term was 41.1%, the lowest ever measured by Gallup. When you break that down even further, Trump’s approvals were 4% among Democrats, 30% among independents and 82% among Republicans. What, we have to ask, were people approving of and what were people disapproving of? Our news media will insist that it’s all tied to political party. It’s understandable why they would think that way – our news media being incapable of approaching this story with an ounce of perspective. Trump’s approval numbers are tied entirely to Trump’s cult of personality. The more racist Trump is, the more his approval soars (among those already supporting him). There’s no rationale to it. No nuance. No policy to speak of other than denying every person of color’s right to vote. Joe Biden’s approval numbers have always been tied to his accomplishments – his ability to fulfill not just the promises he made but the promises we wanted him to fulfill regardless of how realistic they were – and regardless of whether Biden ever actually made any such promises.

The majority of Americans disapprove of Trump not because of his political label but because he’s a pirate, a rapist, a con man, a tax cheat, a money launderer, a fraud, a criminal and a traitor. The reason Joe Biden’s approval fell isn’t because America suddenly got hip to ;how corrupt he is but because Biden’s ambitious agenda stalled. Why did it stall? Just because Team Biden doesn’t know what it’s doing? Our news media presents it that way because that’s how the Republicans are presenting it (and our news media to this day refuses to connect the “Republicans Are All In On Authoritarianism” dot to the “Republicans Are Rewriting Voting Rules Because No One Will Vote For Them Otherwise” dot. If you don’t present Republican resistance in that context – they’re not playing by any normal political rules, they’re trying to destroy the whole system – and not because it’s their “political opinion” but because they’re literal traitors whose only choice now is to go full speed ahead toward seizing the country by force and bureaucratic malfeasance.

Also driving Biden’s numbers down is the fact that we’re still dealing with the COVID pandemic – as if THAT was Joe Biden’s fault. Our news media has never gotten its head around how pandemics work and how they don’t. And they’ve never gotten their heads around how impactful Republican anti-vaxxism has been. Anti-vaxxism is now SO disconnected from reality that anti-vaxxers even boo Trump now for pushing the vaccine. This wild card of crazy cannot be controlled by Trump and it can’t be controlled by Biden – yet our news media (and their coverage drives a lot of how the polling comes out since they frame our collective narrative) want all the “blame” to be Biden’s – as if Trump never existed in this equation.

When Steve Kornacki compares Trump’s disapproval numbers to Biden’s, he’s comparing apples to Pontiacs. He’s saying that disapproval of purpose and disapproval of accomplishment are the same thing. They absolutely aren’t. The people who disapprove of Trump because of who he is and what he represents would NEVER vote for Trump. The people who disapprove of Biden because he hasn’t been able to accomplish everything (yet – after only one year) won’t vote for Trump because Biden didn’t get it all done (because of Trumpanista resistance to it)! The greatest risk is they won’t show up at the polls, that the press’s cynicism will become theirs.

That assumes that we’re living in normal times – which we aren’t. Take this to the bank: as indictments begin to fall on Republican heads – elected Republican heads – the nature of the fall political campaign will change profoundly. When the Jan 6 Investigation begins to release some of those documents Trump’s fought so hard to keep secret? That won’t make the retail politics any easier to sell.

America’s news media loves to report on polling because it saves them from having to do any work. They can simply point at all the icing and claim they know everything about the cake even though they don’t. As we all know, beautiful icing can hide a rotten cake. A cake that’s gone bad because it was always bad isn’t the same as a cake that someone deliberately left out in the sun to rot.

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