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Voters Skeptical Of CNN, Anchors Tapper And Bash, Heading Into Trump/Biden Debate: I&I/TIPP Poll

Americans expect Trump to defeat Biden 42%–36% in the debate.

Photo by ifood ijourney / Unsplash

The first 2024 presidential debate is on the way, but already controversy has emerged over the television network that will conduct the presidential face-off and those selected to ask the questions. Some Americans, it turns out, aren’t exactly thrilled about CNN anchors serving as moderators for the debate, the latest I&I/TIPP Poll shows.

The national online poll, taken from May 29-31, included 1,675 registered voters who were asked the following: “CNN will host the first general election presidential debate on June 27, 2024, moderated by Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. What is your opinion of the debate moderators and the host?”

The possible answers, given for CNN, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, were “very favorable,” “somewhat favorable,” “not very favorable,” “not at all favorable,” and “not sure.” The poll has a +/-2.5 percentage-point margin of error.

First, CNN. It was viewed favorably by a small plurality of voters, at 45% favorable versus 36% not favorable. Another 20% were “not sure.” So a total of 56% either didn’t approve of CNN or were unsure.

But the public opinion is by no means monolithic. Start with voters’ responses based on their political affiliation.

Ask Democrats, and 70% have a favorable opinion of CNN, just 12% unfavorable. For independents, it’s 35% favorable, 40% unfavorable. And for GOP voters, it’s 27% favorable, 56% unfavorable.

Another major divergence: Male and female. Men are at best ambivalent about CNN, with 42% favorable, 42% not favorable. For women, it’s 47% favorable, but 30% not favorable.

Then there are the questions about the individual TV journalists selected to query Joe Biden and Donald Trump during the debate (really, a moderated Q&A session): Dana Bash and Jake Tapper.

Meet the moderators. Screenshot.

Tapper, CNN’s main news personality, received a slightly positive score: 30% favorable, 25% not favorable, and 45% not sure.

Bash, another CNN news mainstay, gets slightly lower favorability ratings, at 26% unfavorable to 24% favorable, with 49% not sure.

Yet again, political affiliation plays a big role in how both the hosts are perceived.

As a final question, voters were asked: “Who do you expect to win the debate?” The choices: Trump, Biden, and not sure.

At first glance, the responses look fairly even: 42% say Trump, 36% say Biden, and 22% say not sure.

But, once again, partisanship strongly influences voters’ responses. Democrats overwhelmingly believe Biden will prevail, with 76% giving Biden the win, 8% to Trump, and 16% not sure.

Independents feel Trump will have the upper hand, with 40% Trump to 24% Biden, and 36% not sure. Republicans? They side 81% with Trump, just 6% with Biden, and 12% not sure.

Will the debate be a debacle for one candidate or the other? Will one candidate clearly prevail over the other, or will it be a wash?

It’s not yet all clear. But one thing we know: CNN, Tapper and Bash will all be carefully scrutinized for fairness and balance in their questioning of Biden and Trump.

And not without reason.

CNN has a well-founded reputation for left-leaning bias, as reflected in recent assessments of its coverage.

Thin-skinned? CNN host abruptly cuts off interview with Trump spox as she brings up Jake Tapper comparing the former president to Hitler. Screenshot.

“Overall, we rate CNN moderately left-center biased based on editorial positions by TV hosts that consistently favor the left, while straight news reporting falls just left of center through bias by omission,” according to Media Bias/Fact Check. “We also rate them as Mostly Factual in reporting rather than high due to two failed fact checks in the last five years.”

Of course, it might not be entirely fair to single out CNN for bias or accuracy when the I&I/TIPP Poll recently showed that 61% of voters lack trust in most traditional, big media outlets, while 67% don’t trust “alternate” media outlets, primarily-but-not-exclusively web-based outlets.

CNN vows to “use all tools at their disposal to enforce timing and ensure a civilized discussion,” at least according to the network’s own rules and guidelines, but will that be possible?

Tapper has made little effort to hide an outright disdain bordering on hatred for Trump. When he was defeated in 2020, Tapper declared, “for tens of millions of our fellow Americans, their long national nightmare is over.”

“It’s been a time of extreme divisions, many of the divisions caused and exacerbated by President Trump himself,” Tapper asserted.

This, along with shaming Trump when he caught COVID and even likening him to Adolph Hitler, shows little respect for the former president. (Tapper has also retweeted a post by admitted Trump-hater George Conway, whose wife, Kellyanne Conway, worked for Trump for four years. Conway’s tweet called Trump “100% insane.”)

In response, Trump has taken a (relatively) high road recently, joking there’s a “good 10% chance” that CNN’s debate conduct will be fair, while adding he “used to get along” with Tapper.

Trump perhaps was speaking tongue-in-cheek, but both Tapper and Bash in the past have shown little inclination to be fair to him. And for Tapper, anyone who dares to question the 2020 election’s fairness or outcome immediately gets tarred as taking part in a “big lie.” No room for debate. If you disagree, you’re a liar.

After the first debate in 2020, Tapper said on-air “it wasn’t even a debate. It was a disgrace, primarily because of President Trump lying, maliciously attacking the son of the vice president.”

“You took the words right out of my mouth,” agreed Dana Bash, who in 2024 will again be Tapper’s partner in CNN’s coverage. “You used some high-minded language, I’m just going to say it how it is: That was a shit-show.”

With CNN again hosting, along with both Tapper and Bash, what kind of show will it be in 2024?

I&I/TIPP publishes timely, unique, and informative data each month on topics of public interest. TIPP’s reputation for polling excellence comes from being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.

Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor, and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.

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