Given his strongly liberal political viewpoints, you’d think that CBS comedy host Stephen Colbert might utterly despise billionaire Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Strangely, however, he appears to kind of like the guy or at least respect the support he’s been able to build for himself.
“There’s a populism to Trump that I find very appealing,” the late-night television host said in an interview that will air this Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“The party elders would like him to go away but he’s not,” Colbert told “Face the Nation” moderator John Dickerson. “There is something really hopeful about the fact that, well, 36 percent of the elected voters want him so the people in the machine don’t get to say otherwise.”
Presumably Colbert meant to refer to registered voters instead of “elected voters.”
But even if he’d said the right thing, Colbert has still mangled the facts. While it’s true that national polls indicate that about 36 percent of self-identified Republicans and those who lean toward the party would like to see Trump be the president, that’s nowhere near 36 percent of registered voters across the country. In fact, the GOP front-runner’s appeal is much less than that.
The most recent poll commissioned by Colbert’s employer showed Trump with 35 percent support among Republicans and Republican-leaners. It was based on a larger sample of 1,275 people of whom only 431 were Republicans or leaners. 35 percent of 431 is 151. That means that of the total sample, just under 12 percent of Americans actually have Trump as their first choice to be president among the major candidates.
That’s quite a low number. By way of comparison, 29 percent of respondents in a 2011 survey for Newsweek couldn’t name the vice president. In a survey the Pew Research Center conducted last year, 60 percent of Americans were unaware that Republicans controlled both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
To get to numbers around 12 percent, you have to get to some really weird beliefs. Thanks to Public Policy Polling, we know that 13 percent of Americans think that Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ from the Bible. 15 percent think the government can use television broadcast signals to engage in mind control. The same percentage think that the pharmaceutical industry invents diseases in order to profit from curing them. 14 percent believe Bigfoot is out there.
While it’s true that Donald Trump has a pretty solid base of support at this moment, it’s nowhere near as large as Stephen Colbert thinks it is.
A writer, television producer, and cybersecurity consultant, Matthew Sheffield is a Bold contributor. He currently is a producer and reporter at The Hill's video division, Hill.TV.