Back on February 23rd, “Competing narratives” was posted at this site. It laid out the opposing cases favoring “Russian meddling and possible Trump administration involvement” on the one hand, versus “Mueller, the FBI and Department of Justice aren’t credible” on the other. The purpose of this new blog is to offer readers some sense of which narrative is prevailing, at least in the court of public opinion.
What the polls tell us (1)
Since the first of last month, there have been three relevant samplings of public opinion. The first of those (2-1-18) was conducted by CNN. Respondents were asked if they favored or disapproved of Congress enacting a law that would protect Special Prosecutor Mueller and the integrity of his investigation. Six in 10 voiced support for just such a statute.
The second poll, conducted on the same day, came out of Monmouth University. In this survey, respondents were asked if they favored or disapproved of Mr. Mueller having Trump testify “under oath”. By a whopping 82%, those sampled answered the question in the affirmative.
The third and most recent poll (2-26-18) saw USA Today tapping public opinion regarding whom they trusted most; i.e. SP Mueller or the president? While the results can be broken down into party affiliation, here is what the newspaper found more generally: 58% opined that they had “a lot” or “more” trust in Mueller vs. 45. On a second question regarding the credibility of Trump’s denials of wrongdoing, 57% registered “little” or “no” trust.
It would be simple enough to end this blog with a statement like “The poll results speak for themselves”, full stop. But, those same results tell a larger story that invites examination and analysis.
Relative to the competing narratives cited above, it seems likely that the general public has not homed in on their respective details, and may even be unfamiliar with at least some of the major names implicated. Yet, in spite of that lack of in-depth knowledge, the poll results are consistent in suggesting that it is the first of the two narratives that is resonating with at least a simply majority of respondents. How is that to be explained?
The answer can be attributed, in part, to the role of the media viz a viz the narratives and that is especially true of the cable news channels. To cite the two most striking contrasts, there is MSNBC on the one hand, and Fox News on the other. The former has devoted itself to reporting, analyzing and speculating on the broader meaning of SP Mueller’s successes which have resulted in nearly 20 indictments and the “flipping” of multiple people with ties to the Trump administration. Those outcomes cannot be explained away absent a contradictory set of facts. Thus, as the poll results indicate, facts matter !!!
In contrast to the immediate foregoing, Fox has been the major purveyor of the alternative narrative which relies heavily on the planting of seeds of doubt about the credibility of Mueller, the FBI and Justice Department. Recently, that approach has been expanded to include the drawing of dark suspicions about the functioning of the secret courts that adjudicate the requests for secret wire-tapping of US citizens by one or another member of our Intelligence community.
The impact of the Fox approach cannot be discounted. While most of the poll findings cited above put Trump in a negative light that is a view held by no better than a simple majority of respondents. In other words, there is a sizeable minority of the people sampled who have embraced the second narrative, Mueller’s prosecutorial achievements notwithstanding.
There is absolutely no question that the SP will come forward with more indictments, a point made in the 3-4-18 blog (“The coming ‘Phase II’ “) posted here. It will be interesting to see how those developments are reported by the media and how all that impacts the results of the polling that will surely follow.
- Anyone who is interested in taking a deeper dive into the polls cited and their methodologies, need only Google “Polls: Mueller vs. Trump”.