During the presidential primary season, it was always amusing to watch Donald Trump tout his massive leads in online polls, the notoriously unscientific surveys in which participants can vote more than once and fans of one candidate often swarm the vote.
For example, one online poll has Green Party candidate Jill Stein leading the field with nearly 65% support--hardly a precise barometer of the nation.
Soon after last night's debate was over, Trump declared himself the winner by citing the results of online polls. "I won every single poll other than CNN," he said, triumphantly tweeting the findings of several online surveys.
He even claimed he won a CBS poll that didn't actually exist.
Four scientific polls of debate viewers, on the other hand, found that most viewers believed Clinton won the debate.
While it is comical to watch Trump feed his insatiable narcissism by flaunting unrepresentative polls, Trump's allies in the media are taking a page from the presumptive GOP nominee.
Fox News host Steve Doocy said it was "crazy" that "Hillary was actually number four behind Jill Stein and Gary Johnson" in one online poll. Fox's Sean Hannity hyped the nonexistent CBS poll that supposedly showed a Trump lead.
Hannity went so far as to say that unscientific online polls are more accurate than real polls because they "have hundreds of thousands if not millions" of respondents, a statement that's laughable to anyone with an elementary understanding of statistics.
Another Fox News pundit, Martha MacCallum, even dismissed the CNN poll as an "outlier" because it conflicted with the results of online surveys. The conservative network ran an article--with no byline--on how "online surveys had Donald Trump as the yuge winner," hailing them as "a good gauge of enthusiasm."
It seems that many conservatives learned nothing from the 2012 "unskew" the polls movement. That year, fringe right-wing blogs began to champion the conspiracy theory that liberals in the media were skewing public opinion polls in favor of President Obama to hide the fact that Mitt Romney was the clear favorite. The theory eventually made its way to conservative talk radio, Fox News and even to Romney's presidential campaign.
One of the most prominent poll truthers in that election was none other than Donald Trump.
When Romney lost, many of the conservatives promoting the "unskew" myth were shocked.
Dana Perino, a former Bush aide turned Fox News host, described how many Republicans, including herself, "believed that the polls were skewed in Obama's favor, and did not take conservative enthusiasm into consideration."
"On election night when President Obama easily won reelection, I vowed to never put myself in that position again," she said.
However, her colleagues are doing just that, and Fox News commentators are now citing everything from crowd sizes to Facebook likes to prove that the polls are wrong and Trump is way ahead.
Trump himself has said that polls showing him trailing are "phony" and that the only way he would lose would be if the election were rigged against him and widespread voter fraud occurred. One of his advisers, Roger Stone, said that if Trump loses due to an "illegitimate" election, "it will be a bloodbath."
The Trump campaign and its supporters in the media aren't even bothering to "unskew" the polls anymore and are instead content with citing bogus online surveys that should be taken seriously by no one.
As Trump preaches disdain for basic statistics, it seems his conservative allies are more than happy to follow along.