Even if you did not miss the news last week, you might have missed the fact that Donald Trump had a spectacular week on the campaign trail, touched off by a couple of major policy speeches and then a visit to flood-plagued Louisiana that have for all intents and purposes has reset the campaign and even now show Trump ahead in one prominent national poll.
Trump got a major bounce out of those speeches, particularly his Aug. 16 speech in response to the Milwaukee riots on law and order in West Bend, Wis. In that speech Trump unveiled a major appeal to black voters, which apparently resonated, according to the LA Times/USC Dornsife daily tracking poll — Trump went from less than 5 percent support among blacks to more than 14 percent.
But unless you read this author’s piece on this last week, either on Americans for Limited Government’s news site, NetRight Daily, or over on Lifezette or Breitbart, who picked it up, or Newsbusters.org, who covered the poll’s result, you almost certainly missed that story. Because news organizations, particularly the LA Times, still have not reported on this apparent incredible turn of events, despite doing stories about Trump’s outreach on the stump to African Americans the past week.
For perspective, Republicans only received 5 percent of the black vote in 2012, 1 percent in 2008, 7 percent in 2004 and 3 percent in 2000, according to Gallup.
To see a jump to 14 percent support, while still losing the vast majority of those votes, is most certainly newsworthy, particularly in the context of a story about minority outreach by Trump. If the trend were to stick through November it would mark not only an historic shift in traditional voting patterns, but likely forecast a sizeable defeat for Hillary Clinton at the polls. It could be one of the bigger political stories this year. But even if the result was only temporary, it would still be news.
We don’t know yet, but the LA Times so far has not bothered to report the finding from their own poll even once in a print story. In fact, that paper seems intent on reporting every poll except their own in order to refute or somehow lessen Trump’s attempted outreach to black voters.
For example, an Aug. 21 report, “Trump courts Latinos, says African Americans will support him in future,” even highlights Trump’s recent outreach to blacks, but cites an Aug. 4 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll to refute to efficacy of his appeal — even though their own poll shows the political appeal appeared to work. An Aug. 4 poll tells readers nothing about the impact of Trump’s Wisconsin speech on Aug. 16. The LA Times/USC was the only national poll available at the time that took into account the events of Milwaukee and Trump’s West End speech. If nothing else, it was timely, and obviously available to LA Times reporters.
Why did the LA Times ignore their own snapshot poll in favor of another snapshot from weeks prior to denigrate Republican outreach to black voters?
News organizations certainly don’t fail to report polls that show Republicans doing poorly among minorities. Take for example the Washington Post’s story from July, “Donald Trump is getting ZERO percent of the black vote in polls in Pennsylvania and Ohio.” They even capitalized zero. Or the LA Times citing the same stat.
But the paper had no problems citing their poll on Aug. 16, right after Trump gave his speech — but before the poll’s result had been revealed, in “Donald Trump reaches out to African Americans, says Democrats take black vote for granted.” How embarrassing.
Now, there might be something askew in the LA Times/USC poll’s methodology or sample, but then again, that might be said of any national poll. One might even state a preference for state-by-state polls, considering the fact that the election actually hinges on performance in the electoral college. But that’s not what is happening here. Nobody has had reason to question this poll’s veracity when the same poll earlier this month showed Trump getting his clock cleaned by Clinton after the Democratic National Convention — nor is anyone really questioning it now.
To be fair, the LA Times/USC poll’s daily published results are weekly weighted averages. Meaning, a finding on Aug. 16 would also include the six days prior, and would remain relevant to the poll’s finding for the six days that follow. So it’s possible the result was simply a one-day flash in the pan result on Aug. 16 to do with the speech.
If so, when the Aug. 23 number comes out, it should show the number of black voters supporting Trump coming back to earth when Aug. 16’s result is no longer included in the mix.
But since when does the media wait for an organization’s next poll before it reports on its findings?
As noted by Newsbusters.org’s Tom Blumer, “This could be an outlier, but if there has been similar double-digit shift to a Republican candidate and from a Democratic candidate among black voters in at least the past 40 years of presidential polling during the final 90 days before the election, I don’t recall it.”
So what’s going on here?
The LA Times — and to be fair, every mainstream media news organization in the country — has seemingly ignored the story so far. They’ve all reported Trump’s outreach to black voters, but not its impact as measured in the poll. Why?
Are they afraid it might portray Trump favorably among a key Democrat constituency? Or that it might help generate more momentum in the Trump outreach effort? Who cares?
Maybe they didn’t believe it at first. Perhaps they don’t think it will last. And maybe it was really a flash in the pan.
But none of those things should necessarily matter to a horserace story, which are simply snapshots of what’s going on at any given moment. Polls are constantly reported, and then refuted by subsequent findings. The result happened, so report on it. That would lead to analysis and speculation about whether Trump’s new-found constituency among black voters would stick. If it changes, then report that, and do more analysis. No biggie.
If a major issue is Republican outreach to minorities — heck, there are entire organizations devoted to this type of outreach — when a candidate does something that actually resonates with a group, in this case Trump appealing to black voters, that’s news, whether it remains true for the duration of the election cycle or not.
It’s been a week now, with 7 days of results in the LA Times/USC poll still showing the same phenomenon, a major surge of support for Trump among blacks. Maybe it will stick and maybe it won’t. But failing to report it is somewhat unacceptable. When will the media do their jobs, which is to put that finding into context, even if that context was fleeting? What’s the big secret here?