Add social media to the list of things souring Americans on politics

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Facebook and Twitter logos. Copyright Dado Ruvic REUTERS
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Ben Kamisar with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — How much has social media ruined American politics and political journalism?

Well, check out these numbers from the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll:

  • 57 percent of Americans say social media does more to divide the country than unite it;
  • 61 percent say social media does more to spread unfair attacks and rumors against public figures and corporations instead of holding them accountable;
  • 55 percent say it does more to spread lies and falsehoods rather than news and information;
  • and a whopping 82 percent of Americans say social media does more to waste time - instead of using it well.

Those numbers come, of course, as nearly seven-in-10 Americans — 69 percent — say they use social media at least once a day.

There are many culprits for what ails American politics right now. The urban-versus-rural divide. Gerrymandering. Polarized media. Partisan cable TV.

But when you look at these poll numbers, you have to add social media to the list.

By the way, when was the last time the two major political parties both had relatively popular presidential nominees? It was back in 2008 — hello, Barack Obama and John McCain — when Twitter and Facebook were in their infancy.

We aren't saying there's a direct correlation, but it's something to chew on.

Social media erases nuance and the ability to pause - you never stop.

And for American politics to succeed, you need some nuance, as well as time to reflect.

Tweet of the day (month)

Border troubles for Republicans

President Trump today heads to the California-Mexico border - a day after backing off his threat of closing the southern border.

Trump's shutting-down-the-border threat didn't please Republicans from border states.

Here what Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who's up for re-election next year, told reporters this week: "I told Trump] that I understand his frustration, but I also believe shutting down the border would have a lot of unintended consequences."

Remember, Republicans got CREAMED in border states in 2018 - they lost seven House seats in California; they lost a Senate and House seat in Arizona; they got swept in New Mexico; and Democrats saw their best performance in Texas in 28 years.

And it raises the question: Are Trump's border games good for border-state Republicans?

Previewing "Meet the Press" this Sunday

One of us will interview Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, as well as Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.

2020 Vision: Howard Schultz pulls a Clint Eastwood

Here was possible independent presidential candidate talking about immigration in his town hall on Fox News last night:

"[Immigration] cannot be solved currently because of the ideology of both parties… I would bring the people into the room. I would say, 'You cannot come in here with ideology or ego.' What I want to do is put an empty chair in the room, and that chair represents the American people."

More Schultz: "And we're not going to leave the room until we solve the problem for the American people. The problem that we have with both parties - the American people are not in the room."


On the campaign trail

Today: Kamala Harris (at 9:45 am ET), Elizabeth Warren (10:45 am ET), Bernie Sanders (11:00 am ET), Kirsten Gillibrand (noon ET), Amy Klobuchar (2:00 pm ET) and Cory Booker (2:15 pm ET) address Al Sharpton's National Action Network conference in New York… Joe Biden, in DC, speaks to the IBEW union confab… Beto O'Rourke campaigns in Iowa… Sanders also holds a rally in Davenport, Iowa… And Gillibrand and Pete Buttigieg stump in New Hampshire.

Saturday: O'Rourke and Sanders remain in Iowa… Buttigieg and Gillibrand stay in New Hampshire… Elizabeth Warren campaigns in Nevada… And John Hickenlooper is in South Carolina.

Sunday: O'Rourke and Sanders continue stumping Iowa… Hickenlooper remains in South Carolina… And Buttigieg is in DC, headlining the LGBTQ Victory Fund Champagne Brunch.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 62 percent

Sixty-two percent.

That's the share of Florida voters who approve of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' job performance, according to a Mason-Dixon poll of the state.


DeSantis is even above 50 percent approval in blue-leaning southeastern Florida, home to the Democratic stronghold of Miami.

Almost six-in-10 independents approve of his job, along with 41 percent of Democrats.

Other pollsters have seen a similar trend too—Quinnipiac University found DeSantis with a 59 percent favorable rating in its poll last month. That's the highest gubernatorial approval rating in Florida over the past decade of its polling, Quinnipiac said.

These numbers are especially notable considering Florida's partisan split, not to mention the fact that DeSantis is just months past a divisive gubernatorial race where Democrats pulled no punches against him.

The Lid: Leaders of the pack

Don't miss the pod from Thursday, in which one of us singles out the early frontrunners in the 2020 Democratic presidential race.


ICYMI: This week's overlooked stories

Accusations against Joe Biden! Trump retreats on the border and health care! And did William Barr accurately summarize Robert Mueller's findings? Those were the big stories this week.

But don't miss these other stories that would have garnered more attention in any other era:

  1. Donors to the Trump inaugural committee got ambassador nominations. But are they qualified?
  2. White House whistleblower says Trump administration overturned 25 security clearance denials.
  3. Jared Kushner identified as a senior White House official whose security clearance was denied by career officials.
  4. North Carolina GOP chair, major donor charged with bribery.

Other news that's out there today …

Michael Cohen claims Trump "encouraged" him to lie to Congress in new bid to avoid jail time.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells the Washington Post she's "agnostic" about Medicare-for-All.


Trump is backing off his threat to close the border.

Trump agenda: Shucky-Ducky

Trump says he wants to tap Herman Cain for the Federal Reserve Board.

The president has found his replacement for retiring Small Business Administration Secretary Linda McMahon: U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza.

The Atlantic reports that there are more whistleblowers cooperating with House Democratic probes into the White House.

Trump says he understands why former first lady Barbara Bush was "nasty" to him.


Ethics officials say Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin didn't comply with federal ethics rules when he sold his film production company to his wife.

Reuters reports the administration granted travel waivers to only 6 percent of those blocked by the travel ban.

House Democrats are asking for financial information from Capital One as they probe President Trump's businesses.

The Associated Press reports that the White House is pulling its nominee to lead U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

2020: Biden takes the stage

Joe Biden is set to give a speech Friday to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, his first public appearance since allegations of inappropriate behavior emerged.


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sure looks like a presidential candidate.

Fox News and Republicans are coming to Joe Biden's defense.

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