The Trolling And Polling Of Donald J. Trump

Can Trump possibly go too far with xenophobic trolling? The polls suggest otherwise.

(Photo: Getty Images, Photo Illustration: R. A. Di Ieso/Vocativ)
Dec 08, 2015 at 2:14 AM ET

Donald Trump appears to be impervious to racist gaffes. As America’s undisputed Troll-In-Chief, Trump somehow seems able to say anything he wants on the trail without fear of it hitting his poll numbers. With a statement Monday, Trump said that he would be in favor of preventing all Muslims from entering America, a statement which appalled even hawkish former vice-president Dick Cheney. Cheney told radio host Hugh Hewitt that the concept “goes against everything we stand for and believe in.” The same day, two polls conducted before Trump proposed the Muslim ban emerged, one of which put Trump, yet again, atop the Republican pack.

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Can Trump possibly go too far with racist trolling?

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The irony of Trump’s campaign is that Trump’s strongest polling often correlates with his most flagrant trolling.

A CNN/ORC poll released Friday December 4 put Trump at 36 percent, his highest ever figure and a full 20 percentage points ahead of his nearest competitor, Ted Cruz. That poll was conducted days after Trump claimed “thousands of people were cheering” in New Jersey during 9/11, a blanket slur on Jersey’s Muslim population that has been roundly refuted as baseless balderdash. Earlier in November, Trump tweeted: “Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country. Who knows who they are – some could be ISIS. Is our president insane?” His scathing attack on November 17 scored him his second most-popular tweet ever, with more than 17,000 retweets. An ABC/WaPo poll conducted two days before and after that tweet placed Trump at 32 percent, one of his best poll standings to date.

By trawling through his trolling, Vocativ discovered correlations between Trump’s most superhuman efforts and his most impressive poll standings—all the way back to when the Republican frontrunner announced his candidacy on June 16. Trump set the bar high on day one, descending a golden escalator to tell the awaiting crowd that he was running for president—and that a lot of Mexicans were rapists and criminals. The first Fox News poll after his announcement placed him at 11 percent, a surprising debut, given the bumpy start.

In late August, Trump sparred with journalist Jorge Ramos from the Latino-focused Univision channel, who has questioned him on his immigration views and hails from Mexico City. Ramos was ejected from the press conference. A week later Trump’s poll numbers soared again.

Trump has since set his sights on everyone from Ronda Rousey to Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, but clearly knows his followers love when he slams Obama, immigrants, or ideally both in one tweet. “Notice that illegal immigrants will be given Obamacare and free college tuition but nothing has been mentioned about our VETERANS,” he wrote on October 13 as he live-tweeted the first Democratic debate. It remains Trump’s most well-traveled tweet during his presidential run, rebounding with more than 17,000 retweets. Again, days later his poll standing spiked at 32 percent in an ABC/WaPo poll.

While there’s no causative link, every media flame-out has proven to serve Trump in a positive way. Unless his anti-Muslim rhetoric has finally gone too far, Donald Trump could very well troll his way into the White House.