Deception & Misdirection

The continuing and non-existent collapse of Donald Trump

[Continuing our series on deception and misdirection in politics and public policy.]

Donald Trump’s continuing decline in the polls is a clear indicator that the GOP is facing disaster—that Trump will lose cataclysmically in November, perhaps becoming the first candidate to win a negative number of electoral votes, and that every other Republican on the ballot, from governors to U.S. Senators to Zika mosquito squashers, will perish in a landslide comparable to the Ruatoria debris avalanche off North Island, New Zealand, circa 170,000 B.C.

I know this because the news media tell me so. Trump’s poll numbers, I’m told, have been plummeting, collapsing, and falling in free fall, even as they have been both shrinking and sinking.

Over the past two weeks, the news media reported this crackup over and over again.

[Feel free to skip through these examples, down to the charts below.]


►Yahoo!, 8/9/16

More Republicans broke ranks Tuesday with their party’s White House nominee Donald Trump, issuing dire warnings that his recklessness and lack of policy chops would put the United States in danger. Facing sinking poll numbers and anger in the party . . .

►Singapore Star, 8/9/16

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is playing the “China-bashing card” in an attempt to rescue his falling poll numbers but has no real ideas to resolve the two nations’ differences, China’s official news agency said Tuesday.

►CNN, 8/9/16

Good morning. I’m Alison Kosik. It’s 30 minutes past the hour.

And Donald Trump, he’s trying to elevate the tone of his campaign. He is trying to get back on track after a couple of really rough weeks and plummeting poll numbers like this. New Monmouth poll showing Hillary Clinton breaking out to a 13-point lead.

►Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas), 8/9/16

The speaker’s obvious political concern about the latest polls is what Trump‘s slide may augur for Republican support down the ballot in congressional races this fall, putting his speakership in jeopardy.

►Right Wing Watch [People for the American Way], 8/10/16

On his radio show today, Glenn Beck became so alarmed over Donald Trump’s cratering poll numbers and forecasts showing him falling further and further behind Hillary Clinton that he called on Mitt Romney to throw his hat into the ring just so that Republicans have someone to vote for in case Trump has a complete meltdown.

►Thai News Service, 8/10/16

Falling poll numbers

Trump, coming off a week of controversial comments and falling poll numbers in his race for the White House, hoped to use the speech to reset his campaign three months ahead of the November 8 . . .

►CNN, 8/12/16

Tonight, Trump’s poll numbers are falling with new surveys showing him trailing Hillary Clinton in the critical battleground states of Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Colorado. Fearing fallout from a Trump loss, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is now saying that the chances of Republicans keeping control of the Senate are “very dicey.”

►Eric Bolling, Fox News, 8/12/16

The Trump campaign, which is falling further behind in the polls is really trying to double down on this character issues and that’s where they bring in discussion about emails.

►MSNBC (NBC News), 8/12/16

I`m Chris Hayes. For a week that was supposed to turn it all around for the Trump campaign, the past few days could not have gone much worse. . . . Coming up with Trump`s poll numbers in free fall, the right-wing conspiracy machine is working in overdrive.

►dpa-AFX International [Germany], 8/13/16

When Trump was asked about other poll numbers showing support for him in decline, he said he would not abandon his confrontational style. He said he still believed he would win the election . . .

►Agence France Presse, 8/13/16

His sinking poll numbers are worrying some Republicans, but party boss Reince Priebus weighed in Friday to show his support. “Don’t believe the garbage you read. Donald Trump, the Republican Party, all of you, we are going to put him in the White House and save this country together,” Priebus said.

►CNN, 8/13/16

. . . [S]ome Republicans are worrying that Donald Trump’s plummeting poll numbers could cost them the Senate. We will see how likely that is.

. . . Republicans are trying to defend twice as many [Senate] seats as the Democrats, and on top of that, Donald Trump’s poll numbers have been plummeting, and that makes it even tougher. . . .

►The Washington Post, 8/14/16

Trump also saw his poll numbers drop — a Washington Post-ABC News poll released last Sunday showed that Clinton has widened her lead to eight points over Trump nationally. A Wall Street Journal/NBCNews/Marist poll released Friday shows that Clinton has opened a wide lead over Trump in the battleground states of Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia. Trump also trails Clinton in Florida, according to the poll.

►The Straits Times (Singapore), 8/14/16

Faced with the stinging criticisms, sinking poll numbers and loss of party support, the usually boastful candidate actually admitted he could lose the very election he predicted he would win big at the Republican National Convention . . .

►Herald-Standard (Uniontown, Pennsylvania), 8/15/16

OPINION: Have you noticed that Donald Trump isn’t bragging about his poll numbers much these days? That’s because he’s his poll numbers are sinking fast. . . . It’s no mystery why this is happening.

►The Charlie Rose Show, 8/15/16

Charlie Rose: We begin this evening with the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump is seeking to stabilize his campaign after weeks of stepping on his message and declining poll numbers.

►The White House Bulletin, 8/15/16

Media coverage of the reaction from Donald Trump’s (R) campaign to a critical New York Times report, which described his campaign as being in disarray amid falling poll numbers and a candidate who will not heed the advice of his aides, is largely negative, describing the campaign as lashing out . . .

►CNN, 8/15/16

. . . [C]ampaign officials have failed to tame the gaffe-prone candidate and put him back on track and back on message. Conceding that Trump may be beyond help. Now Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was pressed [on CNN’s Jake Tapper program] about the narrative and Trump’s falling poll numbers in some battleground states . . .

►Roll Call, 8/16/16

[The Wall Street Journal editorialized:] “If [his advisers] can’t get Mr. Trump to change his act by Labor Day, the GOP will have no choice but to write off the nominee as hopeless. As for Mr. Trump he needs to stop blaming everyone else and decides if he wants to behave.”

All of this amid unfortunately for him some falling poll numbers.

►Canadian Press, 8/16/16

. . . [Chris Christie] spoke at a statehouse news conference Tuesday. His comments come after Trump’s poll numbers in key states have fallen.

Christie also indicated that it’s fair to question whether people who cast ballots are entitled to vote. Trump has suggested that election rigging could be to be blame if he loses.

►ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 8/16/16

Professor Geoffrey Garrett is Dean of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania . . .

Professor Garrett [Geoffrey Garrett of the Wharton School], today Donald Trump delivered what his campaign is calling a “major national security speech.” What’s the likelihood that this speech will arrest his fall in the opinion polls?

Garrett: Well Eleanor, I actually don’t think that his fall in the polls has much to do with his policy positions . . .

►Al Jazeera, 8/17/16

Reports says Trump’s recent drop in the polls prompted him to shake up his campaign team [Reuters].

►CNN, 8/17/16

Trump is falling further behind in the latest polls. . . .

You know, we have been reporting that Republicans have been biting their nails as they’ve seen headline after headline, negatively, impacting the Trump campaign, those poll numbers dropping.

You know, and there’s been a general worry that those — Trump’s poll numbers, which you mentioned are dropping across the country particularly in those battleground states, would affect the local races as well.

►Bangkok Post, 8/17/16

Donald Trump announced Wednesday he has again shaken up his senior campaign staff, appointing a conservative website executive and a pollster to head his team amid sinking poll numbers.

►CNN, 8/17/16

Twenty-seven days after his coronation in Cleveland and post-convention bounce, Donald Trump’s prospects appear to be dwindling . . .

►The Los Angeles Times, 8/17/16

The moves follow weeks of falling poll numbers and months of infighting in Trump’s campaign, as the nominee has struggled to overcome controversies that have sidetracked him from his core economic, security and immigration enforcement messages.

►The Christian Science Monitor, 8/17/16

Now with Trump rebooting after weeks of sinking poll numbers, the question is, what will Trump 3.0 look like? He has given three well-received policy speeches in the last two weeks . . .

►International Business Times, 8/17/16

Republican nominee Donald Trump may be sliding in the polls but that will not make him shake up his campaign strategy . . .

►CNN, 8/17/16

Sources tells CNN that Trump has grown frustrated with Manafort specially in the face of falling poll numbers.

►Agence France Presse, 8/17/16

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has again shaken up his senior campaign staff, appointing a conservative website executive and a pollster to head his team amid sinking poll numbers.

►South Bend Tribune (Indiana), 8/17/16

OPINION: . . . Trump, who enjoyed expansive press coverage throughout his unprecedented successful primary campaign, is now waging war on what he calls the “disgusting and corrupt media,” blaming them for plummeting poll numbers.

►The Boston Globe, 8/18/16

Chris Lehane, a veteran Democratic political strategist. “Most of these candidates have just one moment during the summer. Donald Trump has one on a daily basis, which is a deep, dark, dank, unspinnable place to be in.” To win in November, Trump, who has fallen perilously behind in polls following a string of self-inflicted wounds, must overcome historically daunting odds.

►NBC News, 8/18/16

Of all the campaign issues that incumbent Republican senators face in 2016, the most vexing may be Donald Trump. As their party’s presidential nominee sinks in the polls, Republican senators in battleground states must decide if they should align with him . . .

►Providence Journal, 8/18/16

“I actually think I’m going good, I have the biggest crowds,” Trump told Fox on Tuesday, in light of the sinking poll numbers. “Nobody’s ever had crowds like this.” But Trump may be buying into the hype. Crowd size is frequently not a good indicator of success on Election Day . . .

►The New York Times, 8/18/16

While Republicans anticipate that their down-ballot candidates will be able to outpace Mr. Trump’s share of the vote, national and local party officials are increasingly concerned that he is in danger of being so soundly defeated that even their best-prepared candidates will not be able to withstand the backlash to the top of the ticket.

[Wall Street Journal abstract of the New York Times article above: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s inflammatory campaign style and falling poll numbers gives Democrats hope that they can pick off Republican candidates further down ballot, who must weigh carefully how close to get to Trump.]

►Politico, 8/19/16

. . . Trump made a series of inflammatory statements after the convention that sent his poll numbers into free fall. Still, there’s some optimism that this time will be different.

►The Mirror [U.K.], 8/19/16

The property mogul has come under increasing pressure in recent months after a series of controversial remarks and falling poll numbers.

►Reuters, 8/19/16

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has apologised for past remarks that “may have caused personal pain” as he sought to refocus his message in the face of falling opinion poll numbers in his first speech since shaking up his campaign team this week.

►MSNBC (NBSC News), 8/19/16

Joy Reid: In the face of withering criticism and sinking poll numbers, Donald Trump kicked off last night`s campaign speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, by expressing regret . . .

►Sina [China], 8/20/16

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has apologized for past remarks that “may have caused personal pain” as he sought to refocus his message in the face of falling opinion poll numbers . . .

►CNN, 8/20/16

Martin Savidge: Donald Trump’s falling polling numbers. They are fueling GOP concerns that the Presidential candidate could hurt Republicans in tight congressional races. . . . John Phillips is a CNN Political Commentator and a Trump supporter.

So John, I’ll start with you. How vulnerable do you see what they’re calling down ballot Republicans if the polling numbers continue to fall for Donald Trump? How bad off are they?

►Dayton Daily News (Ohio), 8/22/16

The aides’ comments were the latest sign that Trump’s newly installed management team may be trying to broaden his appeal to stem his steady fall in the polls with less than three months until election day. . . . After a tumultuous stretch of gaffes and falling poll numbers for Trump, top GOP campaign and party officials insisted Sunday that their presidential nominee is getting back on track . . .

►Reuters, 8/22/16

On Thursday, Trump apologized for his past controversial comments that “may have caused personal pain” as he attempted to refocus his message in the face of falling opinion poll numbers.

►The Associated Press, 8/22/16

After tumultuous stretch of gaffes and falling poll numbers for Donald Trump, top GOP campaign and party officials insisted Sunday that their presidential nominee is getting back on track and will catch up with Democrat Hillary Clinton by around Labor Day.



Here’s the proof that the news media are reporting the polls fairly and accurately, and that they’re telling the truth: that Trump’s support has been practically vanishing over the past two weeks. The website Real Clear Politics averages the major polls to get the “poll of polls” that is most often cited as a definitive measure of candidates’ standing. (Keep in mind that, as I’ve noted previously, the RCP average is a lagging indicator, averaging polls that may be a week old or older. See .)

Trump’s precipitous decline can be seen in the chart below. In just two weeks, Trump has gone from only 7.9 points behind (47.8% Clinton, 39.9% Trump) to a whopping 5.5 points behind (47% to 41.5%).

Wait… WHAT??


…but… but we know from all those news media reports that Trump has been falling, falling, falling in the polls. He can’t be gaining, even slightly. He must be falling farther behind. The alternative—that the media are lying—is something we dare not contemplate. If they’re lying about polls—polls that are published, polls we can check out for ourselves—what else are they lying about?

No, no, no. There must be another explanation for the discrepancy.

I think I have it! The numbers above show a two-way race between Clinton and Trump. But, in fact, the election in November will feature four main candidates, counting the Libertarian and Green nominees. Surely, if they are included in the calculation, we’ll see the continuing decline in Trump’s numbers that the media told us about.



Oh dear.

Two weeks ago, it was 43.9% Clinton, 36.3% Trump, for a Clinton lead of 7.6 points. Now Clinton’s lead has skyrocketed, all the way to Clinton 41.6%, Trump 37.3%, for a Clinton lead of 4.3 points.

That’s not great for Trump, but it’s about where Mitt Romney was at times in the 2012 race (8/12/12: Obama 47.7%, Romney 43%, for an Obama lead of 4.7 points; 9/30/12: Obama 48.7%, Romney 44.6%, for an Obama lead of 4.1 points).

Try as I might, I can’t remember Romney’s intra-party opponents, having lost the nomination, trying to defund the Romney campaign, disassociating themselves from Romney and denouncing him, and doing everything in their power to ensure that Romney lost in a landslide so that his movement would be destroyed. Where were the NeverRomneyers?

One more note about recent polls: This was in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times ( ):

Donald Trump has gained ground against Hillary Clinton, according to the latest findings from the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times national tracking poll of the presidential race.

The uptick for Trump follows a broad-based decline in early August and suggests a possible narrowing of the race. . . . As of Sunday, the tracking poll showed Trump at 45% and Clinton at 43%, within the survey’s margin of error. Those results are far closer than most other polls, which use different methodology and almost uniformly show Clinton ahead by several points.

Yeah, I know the L.A. Times poll is an outlier. If I had to guess, I’d put Trump a few points behind—roughly the equivalent of being a field goal behind at halftime in a football game. That means that, at this point, it’s still winnable for Trump. And the fact that it’s still winnable for Trump is what the major news media are desperate to keep from you.

Why does it matter that Trump supporters, whom the news media consider their enemies, think that Trump is far behind Clinton (as opposed to thinking that he is slightly behind)? Consider a 2011 article by Piercarlo Valdesolo in Scientific American, reporting the results of a study by Jonah Berger and Devin Pope ( ). Berger and Pope studied games in the NBA and how the odds of winning were affected by a lead at halftime.

Not surprisingly, the further ahead teams are at halftime the more likely they are to win. If your team is up by 4, chances are it will hold on for the victory (around a 70% chance). If your team brings a 6 point lead into the locker-room then the chances of a win go up to 80 percent. In fact, the relationship between halftime lead and likelihood of winning showed a strong linear trend. The greater the lead, the greater the likelihood.

There was a significant discontinuity, however, as halftime scores moved closer to a tie. Teams down by a point actually had a higher winning percentage than teams up by a point. Halftime leads predicted winning except for when those leads were small—then they predicted losing. . . .

It seems the key to motivation (in sports as well as in other domains of life) is to encourage people to see themselves as slightly behind others. Too far behind and you’ll extinguish the belief that an individual can surpass a competitor. Too much praise and they’ll sit on their laurels. Make them think the carrot is just in front of their nose.

Of all people, members of the Clinton syndicate are aware of the danger of complacency (hint: 2008), which is why they’re putting out the word to their own people that the Clinton campaign’s not as far ahead as it seems—that is, not as far ahead as they are making it appear. The Boston Globe reported on August 10 ( ):

Donald Trump’s downward polling spiral, and predictions of a potential rout in November, have introduced complacency as a new enemy for Democrats, who have a simple warning for their troops: Don’t get cocky.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign officials and Democratic lawmakers are gleeful about Trump’s mid-summer meltdown, but still fret about the danger of underestimating the New York real estate mogul. Never mind that Trump has fallen behind in some polls by double digits, or that the electoral map favors Democrats.

“Don’t get cocky.” That’s the problem with lying to your opponents: Sometimes, you fall for your own lie.


Dr. Steven J. Allen (JD, PhD) is vice president & chief investigative officer of the Capital Research Center.

Tags:  Donald Trump

Dr. Steven J. Allen

A journalist with 45 years’ experience, Dr. Allen served as press secretary to U.S. Senator Jeremiah Denton and as senior researcher for Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign. He earned a master’s…
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