By Jesse Goodwin, Staff Writer
President Donald Trump claimed last Monday that the public supports his travel ban from seven predominately Muslim countries, despite polls showing that a majority of Americans oppose it. According to a CNN/ORC poll, 53 percent of Americans oppose the travel ban, while 47 percent support it. 46 percent think it makes the US less safe from terrorism and 49 percent think it harms American values by preventing refugees from seeking asylum in the US. The poll also reveals deep divisions between Democrats and Republicans. Roughly as many Democrats oppose the executive order (88 percent) as Republicans support it (88 percent). Likewise, 81 percent of Democrats say it harms American values, while 80 percent of Republicans say it protects them. And Republicans are more than 10 times as likely as Democrats to say the order makes the US safer (83 percent of Republicans vs. 8 percent of Democrats). This poll in particular provoked a response from Trump, who asserted that polls which reflect negatively on him are inaccurate and the public supports the ban. “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election,” he tweeted. “Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.” Indeed, 12 of the 13 national polls conducted in the week prior to the election predicted a Hillary Clinton victory. But national polls only measure the popular vote, which Clinton won by 2.1 points. The average of all 13 polls put Clinton ahead by 3.1 points. Although Trump won the Electoral College, and therefore
the election, the nature of his victory obscures the finer details of polling accuracy. Trump lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes, but his performance in eight swing states earned him a larger share of electoral votes than Clinton. Pre-election polling was only “negative” to the extent that it did not account for his strength in those states. For instance, some pre- election polls predicted that Clinton would win Wisconsin by 6-8 percentage points. Trump won the state by 1 percentage point. Exit polls found that late- deciding voters in Wisconsin as well as Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania favored Trump by double-digit margins of up to 29 percentage points, indicating thatmanyvotersswitchedfrom another candidate to Trump at the last minute. It follows that opinion polls are nuanced and may not exclusively favor a single candidate or party. Take the CNN/ORC poll, which found that 49 percent of Americans want the Senate to vote in favor of Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, as opposed to 36 percent who want it to vote against Gorsuch. The previous two Supreme Court nominees, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor— nominated by George W. Bush and Barack Obama respectively—received similar support. 51 percent of respondents said that Democrats in the Senate would be justified in using Senate procedures such as the filibuster to prevent an up-or-down vote on Gorsuch, which would delay or prevent his nomination. By contrast, 41 percent said the use of those procedures would be unjustified. Given the evidence that this poll is not “fake news,” Trump’s claim that “people want border security and extreme
vetting” is false unless those people are Republicans—who overwhelmingly approve of his travel ban, but do not represent mostAmericans. However, a different poll conducted by Morning Consult and Politico found that 55 percent of Americans support the ban, while 38 percent disapprove of it. Yet these results, which were tweeted by Trump the following Wednesday, were similarly divided along partisan lines: 82 percent of Republicans support the ban, while 65 percent of Democrats oppose it. Furthermore, the same poll found that after two weeks in office, Trump’s approval rating fell to 47 percent from 49 percent the previous week, while his disapproval rating rose to 46 percent from 41 percent. According to the CNN/ ORC poll, his approval rating at the same time was 44 percent and his disapproval rating was 53 percent. Both polls establish that less than half of Americans approve of his job performance, so why is only one “fake news”? Trump’s response to judicial rulings against the ban is also telling. It was suspended on February 3 by James Robart, a federal judge in Seattle; Trump thereafter questioned Robart’s credibility, tweeting that he was a “so-called judge.” Last Thursday, after a federal appeals court unanimously rejected Trump’s appeal to reinstate it, he once again took to Twitter, hinting at a future appeal to the Supreme Court: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” Trump is unable to prove that “negative polls” are “fake news” or that the rulings against his Muslim travel ban were unfair. In this era of “alternative facts,” when the president expects citizens to believe his claims without evidence, he should be held accountable for his words.