WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 29: The U.S. Capitol will be seen through a warning tape on April 29, 2021 … [+]
In the United States, politics has always been a numbers game, regardless of which party controls the White House and Congress. It’s important to see what the numbers say, but also what they don’t. The numbers game was certainly in full swing on Thursday afternoon, the day after President Joe Biden addressed a joint congressional session on Wednesday.
During his address, the president set a progressive economic agenda that was followed by 18.1 million Americans. According to a viewer survey conducted by CBS News, 85% of respondents agreed, while only 15% disagreed. @CBSNewsPoll shared the result on social media.
Spectators, not Americans
By Thursday afternoon, many had been on social media to announce that “85% of Americans” backed President Biden without realizing that the poll was referring to those who actually saw the speech. Many of the comments that followers of Biden have posted on the social platforms clearly suggest that they believe the Democrats have a national mandate on the issues set out by the President.
Actor / liberal activist Rob Reiner (@robreiner) no doubt reiterated the belief that the majority of Americans liked what they heard. “85% of Americans agreed with what President Biden had to say in his address to the nation. It’s time for Republicans in Congress who stand for nothing to get out of the way and let the majority rule.”
“85% of Americans approved the president’s speech. The rest are planning the next uprising,” wrote social media user Rex Zane (@ rexzane1).
Progressive activist Chris Hahn (@ChristopherHahn) shared a similar sentiment: “85% of Americans are in favor of the agenda President Biden put them before them last night. End the obstruction in the Senate and let it get done.”
However, many who opposed the president’s agenda also called out the numbers. There was also a lack of understanding that the poll was referring to viewers and not all Americans.
The conservative writer Juanita Broaddrick was blunt and to the point: “CBS says 85% of Americans agreed to Biden’s speech. That’s bullsh * t. CBS gets 1,000 Pinocchios out of a possible 4.”
Rep. Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) (R-Colo.) Was among lawmakers grappling with the numbers. “So CBS says that 85% of Americans approved of Joe Biden’s speech last night … at that point. We all know it’s utter nonsense.”
Nor was it surprising that Rep. Boebert was then called out by some for their misunderstanding – which was noteworthy in that those who supported the Biden agenda weren’t as informed about the numbers either.
And at least some on social media made the claim “85% of Americans” and tried to educate the masses about the mistake.
“18.2 million Americans saw Biden’s speech last night. 85% of those people agreed to the speech. There are 340 million Americans. 85% of Americans agreed that the speech was trending. That means 289 million people agreed.” wrote Miles Commodore (@miles_commodore). .
Kevin Parker (@Kparkour) added, “Such intentionally misleading BSs. That’s why ‘85% of Americans ‘are trending, not ‘85% of the viewers’.”
“85% of Americans who watched are implied when we say 85% of Americans. People chose not to watch, including me, but instead used context cues,” noted @herforhaechan.
One user, @Kayokiomi, was right that most Americans didn’t tune in and wrote, “85% of Americans didn’t see Joe Biden last night.”
Factcheck website Snopes.com cited claims that 85% of Americans approved the speech as “false”.
It said: “This statistic applies to the approval rating of Americans who saw the speech, not the nationwide. While 85% of the audience approved the speech, most of those viewers were Democrats, according to CBS News.”
Still deeply divided
Even if President Joe Biden has called for unity, Americans are unlikely to get together. As evidenced by those who believed the 85 percent figure meant all Americans, there still seemed to be a belief that unity means accepting Biden’s agenda. Likewise, those who stay against Biden simply call “BS” in return.
“The country is still very polarized and that affects all perceptions of political events,” said Greg Sterling, vice president of insights at SaaS marketing firm Uberall.
“Biden supporters are obviously using the poll as a kind of club against opponents,” added Sterling. “But social media reinforce and exacerbate existing divisions and have never been a medium for nuanced debates, partisan reconciliation or national healing.”