WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is encouraging his 24 million Twitter followers to ignore negative polls.
On Monday he tweeted — inaccurately — that “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election.”
Professional polling is scientific, not political, in nature. Polls by TV networks during the election were not “fake news.”
In fact, most national polls were not far off the mark. The polls correctly showed Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote by a relatively small margin.
Trump specifically objected to polls that showed opposition to his administration’s temporary ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“Sorry,” he wrote, “people want border security and extreme vetting.”
If by “people” Trump only means the Americans who voted for him, then that’s true. But the American public as a whole is starkly divided over the travel ban and other security measures.
Trump said he bases his assertions on “an accumulation of data” but didn’t provide his sources.
Trump’s tweet seemed to be motivated by a Monday morning segment on CNN. At 6:31 a.m. EST, a CNN/ORC poll showed Trump with 44 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval of his job performance.
Then he said, “What about that travel ban policy? How’s the country reacting to that? A majority are opposed. Slim majority. Fifty-three percent of Americans oppose the travel ban, 47 percent in favor.”
The poll is a scientific sample of the American population at large.
Trump’s tweet provoked widespread criticism on Monday morning.
“This is bizarre behavior. Something is not right,” said Joaquin Castro, a Democratic congressman from Texas.
Another vocal Trump critic, activist Deray McKesson, tweeted, “‘Negative news = fake news’ is the beginning of tyranny.”
It came on the same morning that one of Trump’s friends, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, was quoted in The New York Times saying, “I think, in his mind, the success of this is going to be the poll numbers.”
Throughout his adult life, Trump has cared deeply about various measures of his popularity, including magazine cover appearances, television ratings and rally crowd sizes.
But he is starting his presidency with historically low approval ratings and widespread opposition to some of his administration’s policies.
That’s why some observers have expected Trump to try to discredit approval rating polls.