faded into the background noise by now, as does anything in politics
today that’s older than about 12 hours. But it’s worth occasionally
remembering that the sitting president of the United States
disparaged the media as “the enemy of the American people” within
his first month in office.
FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is
not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!,” President
Donald Trump posted via Twitter on Feb. 17. 2017.
was a lot going on in that moment, more than we even realized at
the time. (Three days before this, for example, Trump allegedly
suggested to then-FBI director James Comey that he drop the
agency’s investigation into just-fired national security adviser
Michael Flynn.) So in short order, the comment was added to the
lengthy column of “Things Trump did that most other presidents
would never do,” and most of us moved on.
Trump’s targeting of the media didn’t fade - and neither did the
sentiment in that tweet.
month, Quinnipiac University’s pollsters asked Americans if they
agreed with the sentiment Trump expressed in that tweet. Were
certain news outlets - unnamed by Quinnipiac - enemies of the
American people? Nearly 4-in-10 said yes - including more than
are a lot of ways to read that, though. Without identifying the
outlets, partisans might simply focus on the outlets they don’t
like. Republicans might think of CNN; Democrats of Fox News.
Either might think of partisan online outlets. It’s hard to say.
a poll released on Thursday, Quinnipiac was more direct.
than a quarter of the public says that the news media broadly is
better described as “enemy of the people” than an “important part
of democracy.” But among Republicans, more than half preferred the
former term to the latter.
there was a limited set of options from which to choose. The
question wasn’t “is the media the enemy of the people” but “which
is a better descriptor.” It’s still remarkable, though, that so
many in Trump’s party think that “enemy” is more accurate than
“important part of democracy.”
Research Center also released new polling data on Thursday,
looking, among other things, at the related question of what it
means to be a good citizen. Ninety percent of respondents said
that it was somewhat or very important to follow what happens in
government and politics to be a good citizen, a requirement that
would seem to hinge heavily on consumption of news reporting. Only
8 percent of respondents said they had a great deal of confidence
in the news media to act in the best interests of the public -
with Democrats expressing a great deal or a fair amount of
confidence more than three times the rate of Republicans.
revealing was Pew’s asking whether “people agree on basic facts
even if they disagree on politics” was a good way of describing
the country. Only a third of Americans said it did, with about a
third of both Republicans and Democrats holding that view.
Interestingly, of about two dozen values that might be considered
important to the country, agreed-upon facts was viewed as one of
the least important.
is a feature of the nature of media consumption in the United
States at this point. Some people seek out media that reflects
their political beliefs and view contradictory coverage as biased
and inaccurate. Trump actively reinforces the idea that coverage
critical of him is fake, a view that his supporters often embrace.
said, it’s not clear how much of the response to Quinnipiac’s
question about the media being an enemy is driven by partisanship.
Pew’s data offered several new examples of the by-now established
phenomenon of partisan views shifting sharply with the change in
the occupant of the White House. Perhaps this antipathy to the
media is a temporary partisan function of Trump’s advocacy.