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Donald Trump falls in polls as media moves on to classier, more luxurious candidates

Turns out the Donald really needed the press.

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

That's the conclusion of George Washington political scientist John Sides, who's been tracking Trump's poll numbers against his share of media coverage. Here's Sides's chart:

trump poll numbers against media coverage

John Sides/Monkey Cage

"You can see the correlation," Sides deadpans. Hell, you'd have to be blind to miss it.

What the chart doesn't quite explain is why coverage of Trump fell so sharply around the time of the second debate. Part of it, I suspect, is that other outsider candidates began rising, and that squeezed the media's relentless focus on Trump.

This chart from HuffPost Pollster covers the same period as Sides's graph, and it shows both Carson and, particularly, Fiorina rising during the period when coverage of Trump began falling.

Huffington Post

That's my recollection of the news cycle, too — early to mid-September is when the media began taking Carson and Fiorina more seriously, and they, like Trump, proved to be easy-to-cover outsiders with a media-friendly taste for controversy.

What's hard in all this is to separate correlation from causation. Is the media moving on from Trump because Trump's fortunes are dimming? Are Trump's fortunes dimming because the media is moving on? Was the media cause or effect of Trump's rise? Or both? It's hard to say.

As a card-carrying member of the media, it has certainly felt to me, starting around the second debate, that the limits of Trump's candidacy have come clearer: He's out of his depth on policy, his campaign is progressively less inventive and unusual, and fear of Trump is leading to consolidation around his most politically talented challengers — namely Rubio and Fiorina.

But Trump still leads in the polls, and the level of media coverage he's getting now is about the same as before he peaked in the polls. So there's nothing inconsistent between the current numbers and continued dominance for the Donald.

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