After a rambling and combative press conference Thursday, President Donald Trump's campaign sent out a survey asking people to weigh in on just how terrible they think the news media is.
The Trump administration has suffered a series of setbacks in recent days, including the departure of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the withdrawal of the president's nominee for secretary of the Labor Department. Trump's rocky start came up during a news conference at the White House, though he spent much of his time attacking the media. "Russia is fake news," he said, arguing that "the news is fake because so much of the news is fake."
The "Mainstream Media Accountability Survey," which was emailed to people Thursday who had previously signed up for campaign updates, began with a series of relatively straightforward questions about news outlets.
"Do you trust MSNBC to report fairly on Trump's presidency?" the second question asks. Subsequent questions ask the same thing about CNN and Fox News.
But the survey quickly amps up from there. Question 13, for example, crams several disparate issues into one sentence, asking if "political correctness has created biased news coverage on both illegal immigration and radical Islamic terrorism?"
Other questions are strangely confusing — "Do you believe that contrary to what the media says, raising taxes does not create jobs?" — and many seem designed to bait people into giving certain answers.
"Do you believe that the media creates false feuds within our Party in order to make us seem divided?" question 20 asks. It's followed by another asking, "Do you believe that the mainstream media has been too eager to jump to conclusions about rumored stories?"
Further questions ask supporters about the media using "slurs rather than facts" and Trump's decision "to cut through the media’s noise and deliver our message straight to the people?"
Chris Jackson, a vice president of polling agency Ipsos (Disclosure: Ipsos has conducted polls for BuzzFeed News, in addition to other outlets such as Reuters), said Thursday that "you would be hard pressed to find any professional who would call this a survey."
"This is not a public opinion poll and anybody who says it is, is misconstruing it," he said. "If anything it’s like a fan survey."
Jackson pointed to question 17, which asks how the media has treated "our movement." Similar language is peppered throughout the survey, which Jackson observed is a clear indicator that the target audience is people who already support Trump.
David Grant, a senior behavioral scientist at the Rand Corporation, made similar observations. Grant said the wording seems designed to elicit a response "that is in concert with the administration’s perspective," adding that the results would be "nonscientific."
"The wording of the questions are genuinely quite leading," Grant said. "They’re almost rhetorical statements."
And though it is unclear how the survey results will ultimately be used, Jackson speculated that it could be a way to gather information for future fundraising efforts.
"This is more of messaging exercise than an attempt to get sincere opinion," he said.
Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Jim Dalrymple II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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