If you watched the first presidential debate on Monday evening, it’s likely you agree with the vast majority of Americans who responded to the first post-debate scientific polls that the clear winner was Hillary Clinton. But if you took a look at many online polls, you may have wondered why so many people who responded to them said that the winner was Donald Trump.
The CNN/ORC poll conducted immediately following the confrontation between the candidates was unambiguous — Clinton was perceived as the winner by 62 percent of respondents, compared to only 27 percent who said Trump was the victor. The poll comes with a caveat: it slightly oversampled Democrats and undersampled Republicans. So the margin among the broader population was probably slightly smaller. But the results were clear that Clinton was the winner.
Online polls are unscientific by nature. They don’t seek out a representative sample. Many of them allow you to vote multiple times. So one person with time on his hands, computer skills, and a partisan agenda can move the needle on those polls a little in one direction or the other, depending on the total number of people who respond. But virtually all of the post-debate polls disagreed sharply with what CNN, and YouGov, which also conducted a scientific poll, found. And now we know why.
The Daily Dot reported on Tuesday that users of the online communities 4chan and Reddit manipulated the results of the online polls to produce the result they wanted, in an attempt to convince people that most Americans believe Trump was the overwhelming victor on Monday evening. On the Reddit community “r/The_Donald,” which is followed by over 200,000 subscribers, a number of users, who refer to themselves as “centipedes” posted links to multiple online polls, as evidenced in this screen capture shared by The Daily Dot.
Another screen shot captured by the site, this one of a 4chan post, shows even more explicitly what was up.
Of course Trump was ecstatic, and took to Twitter to celebrate.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2016
The motives behind this juvenile attempt at stuffing the digital ballot box are pretty clear: make people who are on the fence believe that “resistance is futile,” and that their “god-emperor” Trump is the overwhelming choice of most Americans. They also hope to demoralize and dampen the enthusiasm of Clinton’s supporters.
And the internet isn’t the only place where the alternate reality of a massive Trump debate victory has been played out. Even GOP messaging guru Frank Luntz tweeted that in his debate focus group six members thought Trump was the debate winner compared to 16 who said it was Clinton. But his friends over at the media arm of the Republican party, Fox News, had a totally different take on things, as reported by Rachel Maddow on Tuesday evening.
It has been repeatedly said that Trump and Clinton supporters live in “two different Americas.” This shows that the two sides don’t just live in different versions of the country — they live in completely different universes.
Here’s what Rachel had to say about the subject of post-debate polling and analysis:
Featured image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images