That’s the question on everyone’s mind in the days after Donald Trump surged to victory in the 2016 presidential election, a shocking result that made "Dewey defeats Truman" look like a fond memory for the media.
In the days leading up to the shocking vote, many media outlets had Hillary Clinton’s chances of victory at between 70% and 80% - a percentage that, as wrong as it turned out to be, had actually dropped from a few weeks prior. And it wasn’t the so-called liberal media that missed the mark; polls from conservative organs such as Fox News had Clinton in the lead and several Republican pollsters predicted her team would be popping champagne relatively early on election night.
So how did everyone - even Trump himself reportedly didn’t like his chances - get the most over-polled event in human history so wrong? There are several clues in Edelman’s most recent Trust Barometer report, published early in 2016.
The report found that elites - which, broadly defined, includes pollsters, the media, and the political class - and the general public aren’t just living in blue states and red states but different states of mind. Forty-five percent of elites are optimistic about where they’ll be five years from now, 18 points higher than the mass population. And in the U.S., there was a 20-point difference between the informed public and the population at large in terms of trust in government, business, the media, and NGOs. Only 11 months after the study was published, the latter group showed its displeasure in force.
Income inequality is real, it’s not going away anytime soon, and it’s going to be a big challenge for more than just the Democratic Party. The media, the political class that includes public affairs professionals, lobbyists, and many marketers, and businesses are all going to have to bridge the gap. Two researchers who worked on the study said the private sector might be the key.
Business was more trusted by the survey’s respondents, and it’s better equipped to come up with solutions for income inequality than the public sector, noted the firm’s Tonia Ries and David Bersoff. But big business has to go well beyond CSR to focus more on employees and customers and less on shareholder demands.
The people have spoken, and businesses would be making a big mistake if they left it up to only the politicians to respond.
Frank Washkuch is news editor at PRWeek.