Donald Trump 46 percent.
Hillary Clinton 44 percent.
Source: Washington Post-ABC News
Date of release: 5/21/2016
Washington Post Headline: Poll: Election 2016 shapes up as a contest of negatives
Seeing any poll these days showing Donald Trump actually leading Hillary Clinton — who not too long ago led by double-digits — likely leads to more than a few double-takes. Yes… it’s still 169 days until Election Day, and things like a sudden economic downturn or major terror attack can still change the equation, but it’s still fascinating or frightening (depending on your horse) to see things so definitively move Trump’s way in the past two weeks. According to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, two months ago the spread between the two was 50.0 to 39.8 in favor of Clinton. Today, it’s Trump now leading for the first time, albeit by a slim 43.4-43.2. From a trending perspective, that’s a stunning 11.4-point swing in a matter of eight weeks… particularly with all of the negative press the presumptive GOP frontrunner receives justly and unjustly on an hourly basis (which proves how much the media is losing its grip on influence and shaping the narrative).
So if you’re running the Washington Post, what headline do you lead with? The logical one stating Trump — who trailed in your last poll by 11 points — is now leading Clinton? Or an obvious “duh” tidbit — the election shaping up as a contest of negatives — that almost all your readers already know?
The Post, of course, went with the latter… which is a textbook example of burying the lede. But it gets even more hilarious when actually reading the story. Punchline? It takes a chart, a headline, sourcing and five paragraphs (219 words total) to get to that pesky little part that shares the most notable result of the poll. And the best part? After paragraph five with the results, here’s how Post writers Dan Balz and Scott Clement attempted to comfort their readers:
Nonetheless, Clinton is rated ahead of Trump across a range of attributes and issues, and she is seen as having superior experience, temperament and personality to be president. Trump is viewed as unqualified by a majority of adults, but he has strong appeal to voters as the anti-Clinton candidate who can bring change to Washington in an election year in which outsiders have thrived.
Translation: Ignore the numbers (nonetheless). And here’s why…
A few paragraphs later, the Post shares its results from a possible three-way race by inexplicably throwing Mitt Romney into the mix. Why? To underscore, they say, the divisions within the GOP ranks:
The Post-ABC poll tested a hypothetical three-way race that included Trump, Clinton and Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 nominee and one of the most outspoken critics of the New York businessman. Among registered voters, Clinton gets 37 percent, Trump 35 percent and Romney 22 percent. Underscoring the divisions within the GOP ranks, Romney gets a third of Republicans in a three-way race.
Uh-huh. So one would think the Post — along with ABC — would also test a hypothetical three-way race between, say… Trump, Clinton and Bernie Sanders, right? Of course not. In the Washington Post-ABC News Fantasy Land, there aren’t any divisions within the Democratic ranks, nor any chance of a contested — or at the very least — a protest-laden/ugly convention for the Democratic party in Philadelphia this summer.
Do I think Bernie would ever run as a third-party candidate? Nope. Do I think Romney would launch a third-party candidacy after witnessing what’s happening to establishment candidates on both sides of the aisle? Absolutely not. But that didn’t stop the Post and ABC for dreaming out loud in giving Romney a seat at its imaginary table anyway while totally ignoring deep problems on the Democratic side.
So how do Balz and Clement end this train wreck of a poll report? With this takeaway paragraph, of course:
Trump has refused to release his tax returns, in contradiction of the practice of presidential candidates dating back decades. More than 6 in 10 Americans say he should conform to that custom and release them, including most independents but fewer than half of Republicans.
Again, balance is fleeting here as no such question was asked of those polled about Mrs. Clinton releasing, for example… her Goldman Sachs speech transcripts. And to end the story on such a negative note given the biggest news in it (Trump 46, Clinton 44) getting buried is another example of why the media is so mistrusted these days. It’s painfully clear those who came up with the questions for this poll — along with the reporters assigned to report on it — were on a mission to spin here… even to the point of needing a chiropractor.
Another day, another attempt by establishment media to protect its establishment candidate.
But that’s the thing about numbers… they tend to behave.
Follow Joe Concha on Twitter @JoeConchaTV
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.