Donald Trump’s “first 100 days in office” officially ended at noon last Saturday. Nearly all the media coverage leading up to this milestone, ranging from The Simpsons to late-night comedians, has been uniformly negative.
A study of the evening news on ABC, CBS, and NBC found that 89 percent of broadcast networks’ coverage of Mr. Trump has been negative. Eighty-four percent of Republicans and 54 percent of Independents say the media has “assumed the role of the opposition party in their coverage of President Trump.” Even 30 percent of Democrats agree with this assessment.
Most media reports of the president’s approval rating claim that it is the worst of any president at this time in his administration. However, a professional marketer who polled for President Clinton for six years has a different view. According to Mark Penn, Trump’s approval is likely higher than the 40 percent rating cited in the media. The major network polls survey “US adults” rather than people who voted in the last election or expect to vote in the next one. They include eleven million undocumented immigrants, many people who liked neither candidate and chose not to vote, and younger people who have lower rates of participation.
In addition, while only 42 percent say that Trump has accomplished either a great deal or a good amount so far, 37 percent said the same about President Clinton in 1993. When all the congressional votes from the last election were tallied, Republicans got three million more votes than Democrats and won a majority of both the popular vote and of the seats in Congress.
According to a Washington Post survey, 46 percent of respondents said they voted for Hillary Clinton and 43 percent for Trump, mirroring her national vote margin. But if the election were held today, 43 percent would vote for Trump and 40 percent for Clinton.
I’m not writing this morning to compliment or criticize President Trump. My point is that perceptions of his administration are more positive than many in the media are reporting. What factors explain their largely negative coverage of the president? How can these factors help us understand the culture we are called to influence for Christ?
One: A conflicted period in our history.
America was sharply divided before the election and remains so today. There have been massive rallies against the president and allegations of Russian interference. Health care reform has stalled so far due to conflict within the Republican Party. The courts have blocked some of the president’s initiatives. These are turbulent times.
Two: Personal bias.
According to Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, 96 percent of media contributions during the presidential campaign went to Hillary Clinton. Many reporters were aligned personally against her opponent and remain so today.
Three: Cultural metanarratives.
For decades, our culture has been convinced that truth is personal and subjective. Tolerance is the apex value of our society, an agenda strongly embraced by many in the media. They view Republicans in general and Mr. Trump in particular as bigoted and intolerant.
From these factors, we can conclude that popular wisdom is often more popular than wise. True wisdom comes from our Creator more than his creation: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6).
Can God “make straight your paths” today?