Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt is so desperate to for excuses to paint Donald Trump as popular that she cherry picked one day of one, pro-Republican poll and claimed that his 50% approval rating is “so high right now.”
Judging from this pathetic attempt, Earhardt and/or her producers must scour the approval ratings every day looking for some good news about history’s most unpopular occupant of the Oval Office. Imagine their excitement when Trump’s approval rose in the Trump-friendly Rasmussen poll to 50% - and topped Obama’s approval rating at the same point in his presidency.
Yet “not in the tank for Trump” Earhardt failed to point out that most other polls show a very different story. FiveThirtyEight.com, which crunches the numbers from a large sample of polls still has Trump’s approval in the low 40s, at best. In fact, he has never reached 50%. And yes, he’s still less popular than Obama – and every other American president in polling history.
As The Washington Post noted, Rasmussen has had higher-than-average approval ratings for Trump and lower-than-average ratings for Obama more than 90% of the time, even when Rasmussen’s polls are included in the average. FiveThirtyEight.com gives the firm a C+ rating.
Even so, Trump’s 50% mark that Earhardt crowed about was the first time since February 28 that he made it out of the 40s.
In a discussion devoted to highlighting Trump’s supposedly soaring popularity, Earhardt began by asking RNC spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany, “What is it about this president and this administration that has his approval numbers so high right now?”
That, of course, was little more than an invitation for McEnany to start singing Trump’s praises. "This is a historic presidency, and - surprise, surprise! - the media and liberal Democrats are out of touch. This president - mark my words - will go down as one of the greatest president, if not the greatest in modern history. And liberal Democrats will never see it coming," she crowed.
The other guest, Democrat Jessica Tarlov noted Rasmussen’s skew. She pointed out that other polls, such as RealClear Politics’ average and Gallup’s tracking poll have Trump at 42% and 39%, respectively. "There have been significant issues with the Rasmussen poll which is known to oversample Republicans," she said. Earhardt failed to affirm the truth, thus letting Tarlov’s comment stand as though it were a matter of Democratic opinion and not fact.
Instead, Earhardt asked another loaded question to McEnany: "Do you think that these hateful attacks on the left, do you think the backlash or it's backfiring on them, and the American people are tired of it?"
"Oh, no doubt about it," McEnany said.
For extra Trump love, Earhardt also claimed Rasmussen’s poll numbers were proof that voters don’t care about Stormy Daniels.
Tarlov shot back that voters might not care that Trump is “a cheater.” She added, "They might care about hush money, they might care about intimidation. But we know this: The election's going to be about the economy, it’s going to be about health care, the bread and butter issues."
Watch Earhardt try to dupe her viewers below, from the April 3, 2018 Fox & Friends.
Rasmussen’s usual approach throughout a campaign is to tip their polling results several points in the favor of the Right Wing candidate. Their intent is clearly to encourage the GOP voters to show up, and to depress the turnout for the Democratic Party members. (By playing the situation as one where the Right Winger is obviously going to win, Rasmussen can subtly discourage anyone else from participating – why would you, since your candidate is obviously going down to defeat?) But there’s another level to Rasmussen’s strategy: they’re also working to tip the numbers in any aggregate polling. By throwing in wildly tilted polling numbers, they can artificially push up the average numbers for GOP candidates and artificially lower the average numbers for Democrats. Of course, they’re regularly defused by aggregators who pay attention, like the guys at Five Thirty-Eight, who adjust the Rasmussen numbers to something closer to reality before including them in their calculations.
In many elections through 2010, Rasmussen’s admininstators would be sure to keep their thumbs on the scale so that the GOP candidates would appear to have a big lead if the situation was actually close, and a neck-and-neck race if the Democratic candidate was actually ahead. This was intended to keep the GOP voters involved and interested as long as possible. When these races would enter their final week, Rasmussen would suddenly shift to razor-sharp accurate polling, which would suddenly change their numbers back to reality. This would serve two purposes. In the first place, it would shock GOP voters into feeling some urgency to show up at the polls, as the races would magically appear to tighten at the last second. In the second, it allowed Right Wing outlets like Fox News to promote Rasmussen throughout an election year as “the most accurate polling service there is!”, particularly as they would only focus that statement on the final week of the campaign in question.
In 2012, Rasmussen and Gallup, along with multiple Right Wing analysts, made a choice to keep their thumbs on the scale all the way through Election Day – in the hope that they could somehow depress the Democratic turnout and goose the GOP enough to get Mitt Romney across the finish line and banish the hated Barack Obama from the White House. (Dick Morris admitted as much in the weeks after the humiliation of that election set in.) Rasmussen’s behavior helped bolster the confidence of Fox News pundits and even of Mitt Romney himself, as he didn’t bother to prepare a concession speech until after the reality set in on the fateful night. Again, in the fallout of the 2012 situation, both Rasmussen and Gallup were exposed for what they were doing. Gallup said they would no longer participate in presidential contests, but perhaps they’ll change their mind at some time. Rasmussen, on the other hand, was a lot more brazen – they calculated that people would forget their track record with just a little time.
Fox News and multiple AM radio hosts are now trying to promote Rasmussen Reports, under their new meme that “Rasmussen was exactly right about how 2016 would turn out!” The problem there is that multiple outlets allowed for a Trump victory, including Five Thirty-Eight, and always with a note that this was possible if Trump’s base turned out and the Democratic voters didn’t. What we saw in 2016 was exactly that scenario. Rasmussen doesn’t suddenly get extra points for, in the final minutes of the campaign, noting the same stats that multiple other pollsters and aggregators had clocked. And Rasmussen does not get to run away from their record.