President Trump is popular among Republican voters, 78 percent of whom approve of his job performance, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. To hear the White House tell it, one of the things people appreciate is Trump’s use of Twitter to bypass the press.
“For the people to hear directly from their president, no matter what format that is in — whether it’s through social-media platforms, whether it’s through speeches, whether it’s through interviews — that’s always a positive,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters last June. “And I think most people agree.”
Most people don’t agree. Even most Republicans don’t agree. In The Post’s poll, only 21 percent of GOP voters said Trump’s Twitter habit is doing more to help his presidency than to hurt it. Republicans were twice as likely to say the opposite.
The survey results indicate that Republicans’ views of Trump’s tweeting are souring. When Sanders described Twitter as a forum for “people to hear directly from their president,” she was responding to a question about a June 2017 NPR-PBS-Marist poll. While that poll found that 69 percent of all U.S. adults considered Trump’s use of Twitter to be “reckless and distracting,” it also found that 43 percent of Republicans saw Trump’s tweeting as “effective and informative,” slightly more than called it “reckless and distracting.” (Fifteen percent of Republicans said they were unsure.)
Seven months ago, a plurality of Republican voters viewed Trump’s Twitter feed as more “effective” than “distracting”; now, they say 2 to 1 that it does more to hurt Trump’s presidency than to help it.
The good news for Trump is that his tweeting is not a dealbreaker for many Republican voters. Note that while 43 percent of Republicans in The Post’s poll said Trump’s tweeting hurts his presidency, only 22 percent of Republicans withheld their overall approval of Trump’s job performance. That means at least 21 percent of GOP voters approve of Trump’s performance despite their distaste for his tweeting.
In the past, Trump has attributed some of his political success to social media.
“I doubt I would be here if it weren’t for social media,” he said on Fox Business in October.
“When somebody says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing, and I take care of it,” Trump added.
To be sure, some voters love Trump’s confrontational approach to Twitter. If you listen to NPR, you might have heard a recent interview with a Pennsylvania coal miner who said he likes the president’s politically incorrect style on social media.
But the latest poll numbers suggest that Trump isn’t always scoring points with his GOP base when he goes “bing, bing, bing.” For many supportive voters, Trump’s Twitter habit is something they put up with, not something they relish.