Donald Trump never misses an opportunity to talk about his favorite supporters — the ones who have believed in him from the very beginning of his reality-defying campaign.
"I love polls,” he told ABC News last year, “because I'm winning everything.” Unlike most oracles of the election season, those discriminating data points don’t judge Donald. For now, they only exist to validate him. He has rewarded them by peppering every speech, spot, and debate answer with heavy polling product placement.
Trump and Polls spend so much time together that they can read each other’s minds. At the end of Thursday night’s debate in Detroit, after following hours of Trump citing his poll numbers whenever possible (no survey yet exists bolstering his confidence in his penis, thankfully), he told Bill O’Reilly that he had won "based on all of the polls.” It was unclear how he could have divined such numbers on the short walk from his podium, unless he knew that the polls would, like always, give him whatever he desired.
Because the polls love Trump, too, and always have. Ever since the 1988 presidential election, Americans have been asked whether they wanted an oversaturated squawkbox to become president. Their answers were sometimes scarily prescient. The back catalogue of Trump polls also includes weirder, if no less instructive, moments, featuring low-stakes voter fraud, Richard Gere, Oprah Winfrey, and dream tax-return preparers.
So join us on a brief walking tour of the long history of Trump and the polls that never stopped believing in him — and that somehow make the events of the last year look as if they were bound to happen eventually. A majority of Americans may have hated Trump for decades, but they can’t say they weren’t oddly fascinated the entire time.
1988: Who Are You Most Disappointed Isn’t Running For President?
Spy Magazine, famed then and now for referring to Trump as a "short-fingered vulgarian," published an election poll before the 1988 presidential election. They jokingly concluded, "We have come to believe that a Donald Trump candidacy is viable. When we asked, ‘Who are you most disappointed isn't running for president?' and offered some names, Trump was the choice of 4% of those polled. … Who can deny the probability of a growing snowball of support crisscrossing the nation? One last thing: this is one candidate who will not let you down. After all, we already have Donald Trump's personal guarantee that if he did run for president, he would win." They added that "the low-profile noncandidate actually fared increasingly well at decreasing levels of voter income." Huh.
1990: Does Donald Trump Symbolize What Makes The U.S. A Great Country?
USA Today was conducting a "strictly for fun" call-in telephone poll that asked respondents to say whether they agreed that "Donald Trump symbolizes what makes the U.S.A. a great country," or "Donald Trump symbolizes the things that are wrong with this country" — “Donald Trump will be the catalyst for the fall of the American empire” was not an option. Eighty-one percent of people said that Trump was what makes America great, although, according to the Associated Press, that was because of some American Idol–style "last-minute electronic-ballot-box stuffing" launched by billionaire Carl Lidner. In other words, a guy who thinks Donald Trump represents everything that makes our country great was willing to do morally questionable things to prove his support. How novel.
1999: Would You Vote for Trump?
Quinnipiac University conducted a poll showing that 66 percent of registered voters in New York definitely would not vote for Trump if he ran. He told the New York Daily News that his interest in possibly running on the Reform Party ticket was "all started by tremendous polls. The polls have been enormous” — proving that Trump has an unwavering loyalty to a very small stable of terrific and great adjectives.
2004: Which Celebrity Should Be President?
In a Harris pop-culture poll, 6 percent of respondents said they wanted Donald Trump to run for president. Six percent of people also wanted Richard Gere and Jon Stewart to run. Oprah Winfrey was the most popular choice. The poll also asked people to pick the couple most likely to stay together — Trump and Melania came in third place, behind Billy Joel and Katie Lee and Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. But let’s go back to imagining what it would be like if President Trump had to run against Oprah in 2020.
2009: Who Do You Want to Do Your Tax Returns?
In a not-at-all-scientific poll conducted by Walletpop.com, Donald Trump emerged as the person Americans most wanted to do their tax returns. Extrapolating from this data, we assume that Americans also don’t mind getting audited all the time, or pretending that they have way more money than they actually have in order to feel more important.
2010: Should Trump Run?
Two years before the 2012 presidential election, someone started asking people in New Hampshire about Donald Trump. "I never heard of this poll but I'm anxious to find out what it says," Trump told CNN. The real-estate magnate later told ABC News that a bunch of reputable new organizations had been conducting polls about him. "Somebody started talking about Trump, and all of a sudden, Trump was doing very well," he said, probably smizing. "And then, the National Enquirer — and you say what you want, but whether it's John Edwards, or O.J., or Tiger, it was the National Enquirer. They did a poll, along with Star magazine, that had this incredible rating for Trump. That Trump would win. And then, some others — Newsmax and some others." When asked by George Stephanopoulos if he actually believed these polls, he responded, "Oh, I believe in polls.” Yeah, we know.
2011: Would Trump Be A Terrible President?
Fifty percent of voters surveyed in a USA Today/Gallup poll said that Trump would be a "poor" or "terrible" president. That didn’t stop him from being the most visible candidate at the beginning of the 2012 presidential campaign — a small taste of what was to come. A Pew Research Center poll showed that he was the potential GOP candidate that people had heard most about as of April 2011. A few months later, the Center tallied the amount of coverage of each candidate; Trump had received more attention than Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul — all people who were actually running for president.
2012: Is Trump the King Midas of Awfulness?
A Facebook/Politico poll showed that 41 percent of Facebook users in Nevada thought less of Mitt Romney after Donald Trump endorsed him. One hundred percent of Mitt Romneys also thought less of themselves after this endorsement. The former presidential candidate called Trump “very, very not smart” in a speech on Thursday. These charming attributes must have been obscured back in 2012, when Romney called Trump’s endorsement “a delight.” Romney added, "There are some things that you just can't imagine happening in your life. This is one of them.” We feel the same way, Mitt.
2013: Which Is Worse: Congress or Trump?
Three years ago, Public Policy Polling conducted an amusing survey that underscored how much Americans hated Congress by asking whether the fractious legislative body was better or worse than a number of other very controversial people, objects, and insects. Respondents couldn’t decide whether they had a higher opinion of Congress or of Donald Trump — the difference between the two was within the margin of error. People were more sure of the fact that Congress was better than meth labs, Ebola, and gonorrhea. Nickelback, traffic jams, colonoscopies, and lice were all considered with higher esteem than Congress. The polling firm never asked respondents to determine whether Donald Trump was better than Nickelback and meth labs.