President Trump tweeted Monday, “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election.”
Trump specifically objected to polls that showed opposition to his administration’s temporary ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“Sorry,” he wrote, “people want border security and extreme vetting.”
Trump’s tweet seemed to be motivated by a Monday morning segment on CNN’s “New Day.” (The president frequently watches cable news in the morning.)
At 6:31 a.m. ET, CNN political director David Chalian showed CNN/ORC’s latest poll results, starting with 44% approval and 53% disapproval of Trump’s job performance.
Then he said, “What about that travel ban policy? How’s the country reacting to that? A majority are opposed. Slim majority. 53% of Americans oppose the travel ban, 47% in favor.”
The poll is a scientific sample of the American population at large.
Trump’s tweet provoked widespread criticism on Monday morning. “This is bizarre behavior. Something is not right,” Joaquin Castro, a Democratic congressman from Texas, responded.
Another vocal Trump critic, the activist Deray McKesson, tweeted, “‘Negative news = fake news’ is the beginning of tyranny.”
It came on the same morning that one of Trump’s friends, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, was quoted in The New York Times saying, “I think, in his mind, the success of this is going to be the poll numbers.”
On the campaign trail, Trump bragged about polls that were favorable for him, sometimes reading the data aloud during rallies. When the polls turned sour, he made claims about “crooked polls.”
“The same people who did the phony election polls, and were so wrong, are now doing approval rating polls. They are rigged just like before,” he wrote.
While imperfect to be sure, polling is a science, and experts work hard to reflect the country’s views as accurately as possible.
At last Friday’s White House briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer was asked about Trump’s low approval ratings. He responded with a somewhat sunnier poll from Rasmussen.
“I think there’s also a Rasmussen poll that showed he had a 51% approval rating,” Spicer said.
In fact, Rasmussen showed Trump at 54% approval, but the numbers are not exactly comparable to the other, lower approval polls. Why? Because Rasmussen surveyed a subset of people it defines as “likely voters” in elections. Most approval polls seek a sample of all adults, not just “likely voters,” in order to ascertain the views of the entire population.
Spicer, on Friday, did not decry the polling data as “fake news,” but instead predicted it would improve.
“The president understands this is a marathon, and not a sprint,” Spicer said. “And as he continues to get people back to work, protect this country, I think the poll numbers will act in accord.”