The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza is claiming that terror attacks like the weekend’s explosions in New York and New Jersey and stabbings in a Minnesota mall will benefit Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump because they are “external events [that] affirm his diagnosis of the current state of politics,” and thus his message “hits home” under those circumstances. But Cillizza presents no actual evidence of his claim, and polling following terror attacks in San Bernardino, CA; Paris, France; Orlando, FL; and Nice, France undermine his claims.
Cillizza writes that Trump’s message is “politicians are failures,” and that “To get voters to sign onto that message and, more challengingly, that messenger, Trump needs external events to affirm his diagnosis of the current state of politics — that it is an utter failure and, not only that, but that the failures of politicians have made the average person less safe.” He concludes in his September 19 post:
Most people — Democrats and Republicans — share Trump's alienation from politics and politicians. They are convinced, as Trump is, that politics is broken, and none of the people in office right now have any idea how to fix it. Given that, when they turn on the news and are presented with the chaos we have seen over the past three days, the Trump message — "We have to make a change. No choice." — hits home in a way that it wouldn't if most people feel safe and secure.
The most basic dynamic of this race is [Hillary] Clinton as safe, capable and status quo, and Trump as risky, unpredictable and change. The more chaos people see in the country and the world, the more they are willing to throw over Clinton's experience and swallow their doubts about Trump's readiness for office. He truly is the chaos candidate.
Cillizza cites no polling data to support this contention; he is simply dressing up his gut opinion as savvy analysis. A review of actual data shows no evidence to back his suggestion that Trump does better than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton following unpredictable events such as terrorist attacks.
Here's the RealClearPolitics poll average for the two weeks after the June 12 terrorist shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. Trump’s support was static while Clinton’s increased:
Here’s the poll average for the two weeks after the December 2 mass shooting in San Bernardino. Trump’s support fell slightly while Clinton’s increased by several points:
The RealClearPolitics average showed almost no movement in the two weeks after the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris:
And while the average shows an increase in Trump’s support following the July 14 attacks in Nice, that period overlapped with the Republican National Convention:
If Cillizza had consulted data, rather than trying to tell a story that validates his own opinions, he would have found that terror attacks are at worst a wash for Clinton and that they may actually improve her standing with voters.