According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a “leading question” is defined as a question asked in a way that is intended to produce a desired answer.
Usually surveys are purposefully designed to avoid these types of questions in order to get objective and accurate results regarding the subject.
It appears that the Trump administration didn’t get that memo.
A survey entitled Mainstream Media Accountability Survey was published on donaldjtrump.com, and sent to supporters of his administration in February via email.
But after the administration found the results unsatisfying, his supporters received word proclaiming that Democrats had hijacked the original survey in order to influence the results. So the administration asked respondents to take it again.
President Trump’s administration wanted the results to be one-sided, which rarely leads to valid data.
This 25-question survey is still available on Trump’s website, and the content is almost laughable.
Just about every part of the questionnaire aims to produce a clear “right” — in every sense of the word — answer.
Question one, “Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?” is safe enough, though it sounds more like a complaint than a question.
Question five is where the wording begins to show a greater bias and leading nature.
“On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing Republicans?”
The question then instructs participants to choose as many as apply from a list of hot topics for this administration: Immigration, Economics, Pro-Life values, Religion, Individual Liberty, Conservatism, Foreign Policy and Second Amendment rights.
This question implies that the reader should believe that Republicans are poorly represented in all these areas, but that one may be worse than others. It also leaves no option to disagree with this statement or add another option.
Questions six through eight are normal enough, asking which sources the reader uses for news and which they trust online, nothing too out there.
“Do you believe that the mainstream media does not do their due diligence fact-checking before publishing stories on the Trump administration?”
This question is pretty ironic, considering the administration is not known for checking their facts and even coined the phrase “alternative facts.”
The next two questions regard President Trump’s executive order on the temporary restriction of people from Muslim countries from entering the U.S., or as the survey calls them “nations compromised by radical Islamic terrorism.”
The first asks whether the media treated the order “unfairly,” while the second asks about the awareness of a poll released that stated a “majority of Americans actually supported President Trump’s” executive order.
The words “fair” and “unfair” pop up a surprising number of times in this survey, showing up in six different questions. Each time, the text sounds less official and more like a person complaining after their feelings were hurt.
Unsurprisingly, this survey negatively frames political correctness and uses it as an excuse for the bad press the Trump administration receives on immigration and views of Islam.
Trump’s lack of knowledge about — and respect toward — others has much to do with people’s negative feelings toward him, but of course this question removes the guilt from him and his supporters and attributes it to the media.
Skipping a few questions down, the survey asks whether “people of faith have been unfairly characterized by the media.”
The answer to this one is a bit tougher, as a “faith” is not explicitly noted, but its hard to believe they mean anything other than Christianity.
Now there have been instances of negative media coverage toward Christianity, like coverage of the Westboro Baptist Church. However, it is far outnumbered by the negative coverage Islam gets in the media.
Recently, many of the bad attitudes toward Muslims and their faith have come from the administration itself though, constantly sparking more tensions within people of minority religions.
Further down in the survey, readers are questioned whether “slurs rather than facts” are used against conservatives and if the media purposefully attempts “to divide Republicans” in order to benefit Democrats.
The lack of facts in mainstream media is no secret, but the media is not shy about spreading it to all parts of their political coverage.
Moderate news is rarely entertaining, and in our current political climate entertainment seems to be all that matters. Extreme views, whether left or right, make for better ratings.
As far as party division goes, conservatives are doing a fine job on their own.
As a follow up to the division question, the survey inquires whether the readers “believe the media creates false feuds [among conservatives] in order to make [them] seem divided.”
So now the media is not only causing feuds, but also making them up? Which is it? Are conservatives being divided? Or is the public just being made to believe so? The survey provides no answers.
Nearing the end of the survey, the participant is asked about the choice to give “lesser reporters and bloggers the chance to ask the White House Press Secretary questions” and how much they agree with the “strategy to cut through media” to get messages directly to the people.
Well, giving smaller media channels an opportunity wouldn’t be a bad thing, if the choices didn’t lead to a more censored message being sent to others.
The coverage needs to come from outlets all over the political spectrum in order for all to be on equal footing.
Cutting through the media really only refers to the censorship of data. The administration chooses what they want the public to know — and what they don’t.
Finally, the survey ends asking whether or not Republicans should use more resources to hold media outlets accountable for their content.
After all the negative connotations this survey gives to the media and Democrats, it’s hard to answer with a “no.”
Media accountability is not a bad thing, but if the administration’s past actions are any indication, the accountability would probably serve as censorship.
If Trump is allowed to control the media, then how accurate can we expect our news to be? What would that mean for the future of freedom of speech and press?
Saya is a sophomore political science and psychology double major.