During the 2020 election, Jared Kushner tried to artificially “inflate” Donald Trump’s sinking numbers in the polls against Joe Biden, according to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s new book. Within Team Trump, Haberman reports, the purpose of Kushner’s request was clear — he just wanted to juke the survey numbers, in the hopes of keeping his father-in-law from flying into a rage.
In Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, Haberman writes, “Kushner, who oversaw reelection strategy from his post as a White House senior adviser, advised a …campaign pollster, Tony Fabrizio, to inflate Trump’s standing in surveys that would be shown to the candidate by adding percentage points to his position in the horse race.”
According to book passages reviewed by Rolling Stone, the “ostensible reason” for this was Kushner and others’ contention that polling firms “always missed Trump voters.” However, to various Trump 2020 officials, it was obvious that the “real reason” for Kushner’s advice to Fabrizio was to “avoid upsetting Trump.”
None of the sources contacted for this article agreed to speak on the record. One person familiar with the matter insists that Kushner’s motivation for the suggested inflation was that he merely thought public-polling methodology was wrong; this source then flagged a 2021 Washington Post article titled, “2020 presidential polls suffered worst performance in decades, report says.”
Other sources weren’t inclined to give Kushner the benefit of the doubt.
“There is no doubt in my mind that that was the reason,” a former senior Trump aide tells Rolling Stone, backing up Haberman’s campaign-trail account. “There were discussions among other members of the Trump campaign about hiding or softening bad news like that, if only so that fewer [strategy] meetings [with Trump] would go off the rails because he was pissed off about people saying he was losing to Biden.”
At the time, a variety of Trump’s closest confidants were similarly happy to indulge the then-president’s claims that the public polling had to be rigged against him, and the delusion that there was simply no way he could be trailing his Democratic foe. For instance, Haberman writes, Fox News host and frequent Trump adviser Sean Hannity “told Trump aides he did not trust the polling he was seeing and would commission his own.”
In July 2020 — as the United States was being ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, an economic implosion, and tumult and violence stemming from racial injustice — The Daily Beast reported on how Trump’s top staff was “frantically” plotting all kinds of “new ways to make him feel good about himself.” This included the then-president’s lieutenants marshaling “considerable resources to finding novel ways to make him feel better about the crumbling world around him,” such as telling Trump tall “tales of his sagging poll numbers being fake.”