NY-22 Minute: Tenney Asserts 90% of Constituents Unfamiliar with Steve Bannon By Luke Perry
Claudia Tenney was recently asked on MSNBC if tension between President Trump and Steve Bannon will make it more difficult for Congress to get things done. She stated that “I think the media maelstrom over Steve Bannon is causing an awful lot, it’s divisive. I think it’s intended to be. The resist movement is alive and well in my district. They’re constantly talking about it, but to be honest, if you walk down the street in my district, I bet 90 percent of the people wouldn’t even know who Steve Bannon is.” (5:20 mark)
Scholars have studied national awareness and favorability toward Steve Bannon. In April of this year Quinnipiac University polling found that 60 percent of Americans were familiar with Bannon. 45 percent viewed him unfavorably compared to just 11 percent who viewed him favorably. This was slightly less favorable than identical polling conducted in February. Republicans were less likely to be familiar with Bannon than Democrats.
Bannon was less popular than Donald Trump, whose approval rating ranged from 38 to 40 percent during the first week of April, and now stands at 35 percent. Bannon was viewed even less favorably than former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove who bottomed out at 19 percent favorability at his low point in 2006.
Tenney's comment was not an isolated one. She made a similar statement on the Fox Business Network, again citing the “maelstrom” surrounding Bannon, and claiming “most people don’t know who Steve Bannon is.” (2:28 mark) Tenney argued that people care about “getting things done” and “so far as what’s really going on in the White House most people don’t really know or care.” (4:00 mark)
Comparing related scholarship to Tenney's comments, she appears to believe that NY-22 constituents are significantly less informed about contemporary presidential politics than the country at large, including 50 points less regarding Bannon.
Lack of information doesn’t appear to be the problem. A search for Steve Bannon on The Observer Dispatch website produces 305 hits for this year alone. A search for Donald Trump produces 16,891 pieces for this year. The OD is just one example of countless media outlets where constituents consume their news.
Steve Bannon is now back atop Breitbart News, a controversial alt-right platform that has described Ms. Tenney as a rising “star” and “one of the strongest conservative voices in Washington.” Tenney is likely treading lightly to preserve her more conservative support and alt-right backing.
Celebrating a lack of political knowledge among her constituents was a surprising and politically risky way to do this. Interestingly, the recent web promotion of Tenney’s national media appearances by House Republicans emphasized the “getting things done” portion of her message and excluded the lack of knowledge premise as well as Tenney's unwavering support for President Trump.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.
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