In fact, he’s painting himself into a corner, as we reported last month. In January 2019, he started claiming that his approval with Republicans was 93 percent. Last summer, he cranked it up to 94 percent. Then, as impeachment loomed and he sought to keep Republicans in line, it climbed to 95 percent. A month ago, under fire for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, he decided he’d hit 96 percent.
Unlike any real poll number, the figure never goes down, only up. This is as good a sign as any that Trump’s just making this up.
Real polling shows that Trump’s approval with Republicans, while high, is substantially under 96 percent. A poll from Fox News published on Thursday has his approval with Republicans at 85 percent — high, but significantly lower than what Trump presents.
That Fox News poll, in fact, undercut a lot of Trump’s recent arguments about what Americans want to see.
While Trump has claimed that the economy will recover quickly from the pandemic, perhaps as soon as the third quarter of 2020 but certainly by the fourth (as he said Thursday), 6-in-10 Americans think it will not be until next year at the earliest that we’ll see a rebound. More than a third think it will be mid-2021 at the earliest. As Trump has called for the economy to quickly reopen, most Americans prefer a slower return to normal, risking the economy in favor of containing the health crisis. That includes a third of Republicans.
The president has claimed that the spread of the virus is largely under control and that the country will simply be putting out “embers” of outbreaks in a few months. More than three-quarters of respondents in the Fox poll, though, said that the virus was only somewhat under control. A third said it wasn’t under control at all.
Americans disagree with Trump on more than the virus, according to the Fox poll. Despite Trump’s opposition to voting by mail, more than 6-in-10 Americans told the pollsters that they support the idea for the November election out of concern for the coronavirus. More than half said they disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic. More said that the FBI’s handling of the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn was appropriate than said it wasn’t, though many people didn’t have much of an opinion.
Most disconcerting to Trump, though, was what Fox’s poll found about the November election. In a head-to-head race against former vice president Joe Biden, Trump trails nationally by eight points. Biden has an advantage on handling health care (plus-17 points over Trump) and handling China (plus-6), despite Trump’s recent claims on Twitter. Even on the economy, Trump’s assumed ace-in-the-hole, he only leads Biden by 3 points — statistically insignificant.
Those poll results from Trump’s favorite network clearly stung. The next tweet after Trump shared his fake 96 percent approval rating was one disparaging Fox’s legitimate poll as fake.
Here, he’s elevating a point from Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino which deploys a favorite trick of the-polls-in-2016-were-wrong types. Yes, a Fox News poll showed Hillary Clinton with a 10-point lead over Trump in 2016 — right after the Democratic convention. (The Daytona Beach, Fla. event pictured was in early August of that year.) By the time the election actually rolled around, Fox had Clinton up four points nationally.
Trump followed that tweet with one akin to his complaint from Thursday about how Fox News wasn’t doing enough to elect Republicans (which, of course, it’s not supposed to do).
Fox probably doesn’t share the CNBC and CNN polls because: First, they have their own poll and, second, that poll is more recent than the one from CNBC (released earlier this week, showing Biden up three points) or CNN (Biden up five more than a week ago).
Trump’s probably actually talking about CNN’s poll from battleground states, suggesting that he’s outperforming Biden by seven points across various states. Fox News did cover it, as you might expect, even criticizing the rival network for not amplifying those results more widely.
What Trump wants Fox to do, as he states overtly, is ignore poll numbers he doesn’t like — even when they paid for those polls. He’d much rather they report things like “Trump’s approval with Republicans is 96 percent,” a number that’s made up but certainly less painful for Trump to see.
The odds are nonzero that someone on one of the network’s opinion shows might do exactly that.