A swarm of pro-Trump trolls from Reddit and 4chan drove up Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) numbers in a post-debate Drudge poll, getting the results into The Hill and The Daily Mail.
The Hill ran a piece headlined: “Drudge instant poll shows Gabbard winning first Democratic debate in landslide.” The Daily Mail went with: “First poll has Tulsi Gabbard as the shock winner of the first Democratic debate and Beto O’Rourke as the clear loser.”
The Gabbard campaign was quick to capitalize on the attention, sending out on email blast on Thursday declaring that “multiple news outlets declared Tulsi to be the breakaway winner of Wednesday’s debate.”
According to NBC News, the trolls’ efforts, called “brigading,” netted Gabbard 40 percent of the votes in the Drudge poll. A separate effort launched on Reddit’s r/The_Donald channel urged users to vote for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in a bid to drive the rest of the Democratic field further left.
These communities practiced similar tactics in 2016 to throw President Donald Trump more support in the hopes that the unscientific polling would be picked up by mainstream outlets and boost his standing.
As NBC points out, reputable polls are much more difficult to manipulate as they happen over the phone and with a predetermined spread of respondents representing a spectrum of diversity and political engagement.