Change trumps truth, at least according to the polls. Chris Cillizza of CNN analyzed the numbers and concluded that the 2016 election results could be explained by the answer to a single exit poll question. Voters were asked whether or not change in Washington was the most important thing they cared about. Four out ten voters said that it was. That means change was more important than trustworthiness. A politician could lie and be forgiven but only if that politician promised to shake things up. Unfortunately for Clinton, most voters doubted she would turn Washington upside-down. And that shows up in the polls too.
Despite Clinton and Trump receiving similarly poor trustworthiness ratings, a higher percentage of voters believed Trump would change Washington, or “drain the swamp.” Only 14 percent of those who thought change was important cast their ballot for Clinton.
Why bring up the election now? Cillizza’s piece sets out to explore the strange phenomenon of a lying president. Referencing data from the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Cillizza found that most politicians lie roughly 10 to 20 percent of the time. According to the Fact Checker, 64 percent of Trump’s statements have been “completely false.” Yet the polls don’t show a drop in perceived trustworthiness, namely because no one ever believed him in the first place. Only his most ardent supporters believed his statements and that low number has not changed at all.
Historically a lying president was deemed untrustworthy and his approval numbers would show it. Untrustworthiness was a weakness that could lead to presidential downfall. But this is no longer the case. When measuring the weaknesses in a Trump presidency, lying is not an accurate measure. Trump supporters knew he was a liar when they elected him, brushing it off that “all politicians lie” and choosing his strength in managing the country over his weakness for falsehoods. Despite his falling approval ratings Trump’s trustworthiness still rates at the same percentage it did before the election. The numbers that have been dropping are confidence in Trump’s ability to “manage the government effectively.”
Cilliza concludes that Trump’s presidency isn’t in “peril” because of his lies. It is in danger because of mismanagement and his failure, thus far, to “make America great again.”