Trolls on far-right message boards gamed a poll on the Drudge Report asking who won the October 7 vice presidential debate, and the slanted result was subsequently promoted by Fox News and other outlets.
Following the debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Fox’s Sean Hannity aired the Drudge Report poll, which was conducted entirely online among visitors to the conservative news site and showed Pence winning by a big margin, as supposed proof that “Vice President Pence overwhelmingly won tonight's debate -- it wasn't even close.”
An anchor for One America News Network also tweeted the poll to claim it showed “Vice President Mike Pence as the winner of tonight’s debate,” and a Trump campaign adviser claimed the poll would cause “liberal tears.” Newsweek devoted an entire article to the poll and mentioned it had “contacted the Trump and Biden campaigns as well as the Drudge Report for comment on the poll” (by contrast, a scientific poll from CNN had Harris winning by a significant margin).
During and after the debate, however, trolls on 4chan’s “/pol/” message board had repeatedly posted a link to the Drudge poll, with some suggesting they voted in it for Pence multiple times. This also occurred on TheDonald.win, the new forum for the now-banned subreddit “r/The_Donald,” where one user wrote that they had “voted for Pence, then … voted again, and again, and again” in the poll.
Manipulation of post-debate online polls has become a regular occurrence on these message boards, where trolls gamed online polls multiple times following debates during the recent Democratic presidential primaries and the 2016 general election. And yet some outlets have continued to report on the results of these polls without taking this potential manipulation into account.