On June 27, 2018, Axios Media published a portion of a Survey Monkey poll. The poll itself contained 7 survey questions, beyond questions about race, gender, political preference, and how respondents voted in the 2016 presidential election. This is important as understanding more details of the poll says more, and less, than the isolated headline grab Axios published.
What Axios did not tell the public is that the poll was weighted slightly in favor of Democrat responders, and against Independents. The breakdown was 31% Democrat, 18% Independent, and 28% Republican. This skews the national breakdown, which according to June 2018 Gallup is 29% Democrat, 43% Independent, 27% Republican. The poll also underweights Black (12%), Hispanic (15%) and, slightly, Asian (5%) respondents. The poll further overweights education of respondents. So, the reflection of America that the poll purports to represents does not exist.
Any bias in the poll, which claims a +/- 2.5% deviation, aside, the poll starts off with a question about what issues are important to respondents. As the 2018 mid-term elections are beginning to kick into gear with the Federal primaries having just determined the candidates for Congress, this is an important question. If there is any accuracy in the poll, this could be the first clue to which Party may actually have an edge in November – assuming things stay relatively consistent until then.
The biggest concern? Jobs and the economy. It led all other choices, with the next closest factor being 6% lower. Second was Health care at 19%. That was closely followed by Immigration at 18%. Given that the poll was taken between June 15-18 the attention to immigration makes sense.
If in fact jobs and the economy are the biggest concern of the nation (which is normally in the top 5 of issues for elections), then the claim for a blue wave in November may well be nothing more than hype. Given the economic forecasts are strong. Deloitte believes a target of 2.5-3% growth is realistic for 2018. Public opinion, and analysis, point to the Republican policies as being the cause of this stable growth. Democrats, thus far, have gotten no traction on their claims of economic gloom and doom over the last 18 months.
Related to this issue is how well is President Trump doing in his position. Only 6% of Republicans, and 35% of Independents (including those leaning to these groups) responded as Strongly Disapproving. 80% of Democrat respondents did say they disapproved, but they were also the least concerned with jobs and the economy at 17%.
Another point of interest derived from the poll is where are people getting their news? Only 25% of respondents believe that major news media never or rarely publish fake news. 45% of Democrats have this strong belief of the major news media. That’s 6x more than Republicans. That’s 2x more than Independents view of major media.
Conversely, 69% of Republican respondents felt that major news reports fake news a lot. Independents also felt this is a problem with 42% agreeing with Republicans. Just 21% of Democrats felt that fake news and major media were paired.
It should be noted that this poll was taken before the admittedly false TIME magazine cover was called out. It was before admissions across all news media that images spiking interest to the Obama era issue of illegal alien children separation by law from their families were revealed to either be from 2014 or staged events or out of context. These admissions seem to answer the question of the poll in absolute terms, but what a difference a week makes.
Given that based on the last study done, 25% of reporters identify as Democrats, and just 7% as Republicans the poll respondents may have a reason for how they feel. In fact according to Indiana University journalism professor David H. Weaver in 2017,
“I think over the years that we’ve done these studies, it’s clear that more journalists tend to lean to the left politically than to the right.”
Media Research Center perhaps makes the point best.
“If news reporters were as ideologically diverse as their readers and viewers, it follows that much of the bias that tarnishes the media elite would disappear. If executives, editors and producers insisted on equal treatment of conservatives and liberals, much of the public’s confidence in the news media ability to be fair and objective would be restored.”
Unless there has been a radical change from 2017, then the lean in bias in favor of Democrats would explain why they would feel that the news media is more honest. Thus the media promoted concept of a Blue wave, as an example, becomes a political propaganda as it is refuted by the focus on jobs and the economy. Again, this assumes that the skewed poll is accurate on a national level.
So what can be inferred from what the poll is meant to be telling the public? That a select portion of the nation, in particular Democrat White female college graduates, have the greatest belief that major news media is honest and accurate. That this segment of the nation dislikes President Trump, are not concerned with jobs and the economy, and are the most directly aligned with the political beliefs of the journalists in major media.
Is that as catchy as the headline used by Axiom? No. Does the headline used by Axiom promote divisions in the nation on a partisan basis? Maybe. Ultimately, the poll and article are useless except as a critique on the media that Axiom (and this article) are a part of. But at the end of the day, the reality remains that TIME magazine, CNN, MSNBC, and many other news media actively deceived the public and justified the core question of the poll – Does the major news media knowingly publish fake news? Yes it does, even if partisan segments of America don’t want to admit it.