More American voters blame the mainstream media for creating a hostile, divisive political atmosphere than blame President Donald Trump, according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll released Thursday.
The results will, no doubt, be surprising to members of the media who have spent the past week lecturing the White House on the tenets of civility and implying that Trump's often bellicose statements are driving a rise in politically-motivated violence.
According to the poll, 64% of voters say they believe the mainstream media is responsible for dividing America.
Politico poll --> More Americans blame mainstream media for dividing America than Trump. This is not to say he isn't divisive; most say he is. But the MSM (which often demands 'soul searching' from others) is viewed as the MORE divisive force. Imagine that: pic.twitter.com/3wo7VeMiC0— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 1, 2018
President Trump isn't spared blame — a full 56% of American voters believe the president has done more to divide the country than unite it — but the mainstream media certainly won't be happy knowing the president has taken a clear second place in the race to be the worst influence on the national discourse.
Trump was also hailed as a more unifying force in the media, though not by much. Around 30% of American voters said they felt Trump has unified Americans in his two years in office, but only 17% of respondents said they felt the media was in any way responsible for bringing Americans together.
The poll took Americans' temperature at a volatile moment, too: Morning Consult conducted the poll between October 25th and 30th, during which time an ardent Trump supporter was arrested in Florida for mailing devices intended to be explosives to several prominent Democrats, Democratic donors, and media personalities, and during which time an open anti-Semite murdered 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Democrats in Congress also share the blame for increased division, respondents said. While only 9% of the people polled indicated that Republican legislators had encouraged a spike in politically-motivated violence, 31% said Democrats shouldered the lion's share of blame.
The most telling aspect of the poll is how Trump and the media ranked among self-described "independents" — moderate voters who have no declared political affiliation, even in a heavily divided political atmosphere. Harnessing these voters may be the key to winning the 2020 presidential election.
Independents more often blamed Trump for increased political volatility, but were harsher on the media overall, leading researchers to believe that independents are willing to spread blame around, but aren't giving the media the free pass the media so desperately believes it has.
The media has been adamant that Trump's, not their, rhetoric is responsible for an increase in politically-motivated violence, airing grievance after grievance about Trump's tenor, his word choice, and his approach to controversial policies. But while the media might be pushing some much-needed soul searching on the Trump White House, it seems they may be in need of some soul-searching themselves.