In a recent poll conducted by Ipsos, an alarming number of Republicans think Trump should be able to shut down certain press members if he wants. More specifically, they think it should be a right of the president to quiet any given media outlet. But that's not the scariest aspect of the poll: almost half of the Republicans polled also agreed with the statement that the news media "is the enemy of the people."
First of all: no, Trump does not currently have the Constitutional power to shut down the press. The mainstream media is largely protected by the First amendment, which (in addition to protecting freedom of speech) protects the freedom of the press. Many critics argue that a democracy would cease to exist without a free press, and that as soon as a president is allowed to censor or completely squash a news outlet, the United States would no longer be a democracy.
Still, that hasn't stopped some Americans from wishing Trump could stop the media. In the poll that was released Tuesday, 43 percent of Republicans believe that Trump "should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior," and 36 percent of Republicans disagreed with that.
What's more, 79 percent of those polled believed that Trump was treated "unfairly" by mainstream media outlets, with another 48 percent agreeing that the news media is "the enemy of the people."
However, the poll wasn't entirely directed at Republicans, and for that matter, Republicans weren't the only ones feeling some fatigue from mainstream media: in the poll, a third of all Americans believed that the media was the "enemy of the people." Additionally, 25 percent of all Americans agreed that Trump should be have the authority to close news outlets engaged in "bad behavior." What's more, 72 percent of all Americans polled think “it should be easier to sue reporters who knowingly publish false information.”
The sample for this poll was relatively small, at just under 1,000 Americans, with 326 Republicans, 323 Democrats, and 207 Independents. The survey was taken online by adults from August 3 to August 6.
Though the poll reflected a general consensus across the partisan aisle regarding slight distrust of the media and of false information, there was a clear divide between Republicans and Democrats in the perception of the liberal slant of the media (80 percent of Republicans agreed, and only 23 percent of Democrats agreed), as well as in the perception of journalists as having good intentions (68 percent of Democrats agreed, 29 percent of Republicans agreed.)
What might be the only reassuring statistic from the poll is that only 13 percent of Americans agreed that "President Trump should close down mainstream news outlets, like CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times.”
The perception of the media as something to be wholly distrustful of has been a theme for the Trump administration. Trump has consistently pointed out what he believes to be the "fake news" agenda of the mainstream media, often referencing their reports as "witch hunts" and "hoaxes."
Recently, Trump publicly declared the media to be the "enemy of the people," a claim that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did not refute.
Trump's claim did inspire several of his closest confidantes to refute him, though, with both Ivanka and Melania Trump, as well as Kellyanne Conway, going out of their way to say that they don't believe the mainstream media and press are the enemy of the people.
At an Axios event in early August, Ivanka Trump said of the perception of "fake news," “I’ve certainly received my fair share of reporting on me personally that I know not to be fully accurate. So ... I have some sensitivity around why people have concerns and gripe, especially when they sort of feel targeted. But no, I do not feel that the media is the enemy of the people."