Fox & Friends keeps cherry-picking polls to tell Trump he's winning the shutdown

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

If polls show President Donald Trump’s approval rating is down but Fox & Friends doesn’t report on them, do they really make an impact on the political landscape? That’s the contention we seem to be testing as the partial government shutdown enters its second month.

Two new polls out Wednesday morning provide a litany of evidence that Trump’s decision to shut down the government to obtain funding for a border wall is having a devastating effect on his public image.

CBS News’ survey shows Trump’s job approval dropping three points to 36 percent and his disapproval cresting to an all-time high of 59 percent, with seven in 10 Americans saying that the border wall isn’t worth shutting down the government and two-thirds urging the president to agree to a budget without the wall funding. A Politico/Morning Consult poll also has Trump with his highest disapproval on record, at 57 percent, compared to 40 percent who approve of his performance, with a solid majority blaming Republicans for the shutdown.

But Trump’s worldview is largely shaped by Fox & Friends and other shows on the Fox propaganda network, as we've seen countless times over the past two years. And the hosts of the president’s favorite morning show in particular have been doing their best to focus on whatever cherry-picked numbers they can find to prop up his sagging ratings as they urge him to stand firm and keep the government shut down until he gets his way. Trump, in turn, has been highlighting their reports as he digs in.

This morning, for instance, against the backdrop of the new CBS and Politico polls, Brian Kilmeade argued that “nothing’s changed” with Trump’s approval rating despite the “historic shutdown.” He pointed to a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll finding that 45 percent of voters support Trump’s performance.

But that poll -- performed by Mark Penn, the former Clinton pollster who now spends his time shilling for his former client Trump -- is a clear outlier, as polling aggregators show a steady decline in the president’s approval since the shutdown began.

Kilmeade was cherry-picking, and Democratic strategist David Morey called him out for it a few segments later. “It’s hurting the president politically, I think, more than your poll quote a couple minutes ago indicates. He’s getting really hurt here, particularly among independent voters,” Morey said. Put on the spot, Kilmeade acknowledged that another poll placed the president’s job approval at only 40 percent.

Trump, meanwhile, spent the morning praising the GOP’s “Great unity” and testing a “new theme” of “Build a Wall & Crime Will Fall,” which is built on falsehoods.

Fox & Friends has repeatedly cherry-picked poll results like this in recent weeks.

On Sunday and Tuesday, Trump highlighted a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll’s finding that his approval among Latinos had shot up to 50 percent, in each case responding to a Fox & Friends segment that referenced that figure.

But what those segments ignored was that the poll found Trump’s overall job approval plummeting to 39 percent, with 57 percent of respondents saying they would definitely vote against him in 2020. And after Trump’s tweets, PBS reported that the small sample of Latino respondents meant that the poll had a “wide” margin of error of 9.9 percentage points for that group.

And earlier last week, Fox & Friends fixated on a Quinnipiac University poll finding that 54 percent of American voters say there is a “security crisis” on the Mexican border, which Steve Doocy argued “essentially supports what the president has been saying all along for about the last month.” Trump was watching, and he tweeted, “Polls are now showing that people are beginning to understand the Humanitarian Crisis and Crime at the Border.”

But unmentioned by Fox & Friends, and so unheard by the president, were other key results from the poll: Respondents oppose shutting down the government to force funding for the wall (by nearly 2-to-1), blame Trump for the shutdown, and oppose building a border wall.

The president’s closest allies keep telling him he’s winning. Is it any wonder that he refuses to accept that he’s not?