— So where’s the avalanche of media coverage?
President Joe Biden is posting the best inner-party approval numbers for any new U.S. president in the history of modern polling. Gallup last week pegged Biden’s approval among Democratic voters at a staggering 98 percent. Clearly overjoyed that Trump has left office, Democrats are giving Biden nearly universal, unblinking support at the start of his presidency, and rallying around his larger agenda in unprecedented numbers:
• 99 percent of Democrats support Biden’s executive order for wearing masks in federal buildings.
• 97 percent of “liberals” support the Covid relief bill that Biden is championing.
• 96 percent of Democrats support his response to the pandemic.
Biden’s approval is also sky-high among independent voters, with 61 percent supporting him. Just 29 percent of independents backed Trump as he left office last month. He never received more than 47 percent of their support during his four years in office.
In terms of historical perspective, Biden’s stunning 98 percent approval from his own party today has only been matched once before in American polling. That was when President George W. Bush received 98 and 99 percent support among Republicans in the days immediately following the terror attack of Sept. 11, 2001, eight months into his first term.
The reason Biden’s stratospheric support is so amazing, and why it has clear media implications, is that the Beltway press just spent four years inundating news consumers with Trump Voter stories based on the fact that Trump’s hold on the party was so strong, and his base was so loyal that the phenomena demanded nonstop attention. Trump’s approval rating among Republicans was a sign of a political superstar in the making, the press insisted.
Today, Biden’s approval rating from his own party is even higher than Trump’s was. When the Republican was inaugurated in January 2017, his GOP approval rating stood at 90 percent, eight points lower that Biden’s backing today among Democrats. So if the press used Trump’s 90 percent GOP approval rating as reason to marvel at his superstar status — his “iron grip” on the base — why isn’t there an avalanche of media coverage now about the historically popular Democrat? Why aren’t reporters fanning out through blue state diners collecting quotes from Biden fans, discussing how enthralled they are by the new president?
Months into Trump’s presidency a platoon of reporters regularly traveled to red state strongholds, eagerly collecting quotes (“I think he’s doing a great job”) from people who voted for Trump and who wanted to confirm how much they still support him. (“Hitting it out of the ballpark.”) The New York Times in particular typed up hosannas from Trump fans and presented their praise and vociferous defense of the president as news.
In the winter of 2017, the Times published a long profile on women who voted for Trump (explaining their support “in their own words”), a piece on Trump fans who traveled to the inauguration, and an adoring profile of a Trump fan who lied about Hillary Clinton during the campaign and profited from his fake news business. That approach set the tone for four years as journalists remained committed to telling, and retelling, the same tale: Republicans love Trump. That’s it. That was the whole story, but it was treated as breaking news for his entire term in office.
“Inside the Mystery of Donald Trump’s Stubbornly Loyal Political Base,” read a McClatchy Newspaper headline, from 2018. The piece marveled at his “uncanny connections with supporters.” Axios recently gushed, “No president in our lifetime has enjoyed a more mesmerizing, seemingly unbendable hold on his political base than Donald Trump.” And from U.S. News: “Trump’s Core Supporters Remain Loyal.”
The press is still writing about how popular Trump is with Republicans. “Trump’s Loyal Fans Pose Challenges for Republicans, Biden,” read a recent Associated Press headline.
As for the wildly popular Biden? He’s often treated as a sidebar by the press. Biden just became the first candidate in U.S. history to win 80 million votes. He did it during a pandemic, yet some states saw an astronomical voter turnout rate hovering at 80 percent. Biden received 34 million (!) more votes than Bill Clinton did in 1996, and 16 million more than Barack Obama received in 2012. Shouldn’t that, along with the unprecedented 98 percent party support he currently enjoys, make Biden a political phenomenon in the eyes of the press? Shouldn’t his “iron grip” on the Democratic Party, in the form of his stratospheric approval rating, be the topic of endless reporting and analysis?
Instead, the news has been shrugged off, as if it’s common for a president to have universal support from his party members. The press seems completely uninterested in the fact that Biden’s base is more excited about its presidency than Trump’s base ever was about his.
From Press Run, Eric Boehlert