Trump’s Tweeting Losing Its Impact? One Study Says Yes

According to one new study, President Trump's tweets aren't having the same impact they used to.

However it ultimately ends, when the history of Donald Trump’s Presidency is written, there will likely be an entire chapter or two devoted to Twitter and the manner in which the President used that medium to communicate with supporters, spread his message, and attack opponents before he became a candidate, while he was running for the Presidency, and after he became President.

While the Obama Administration used Twitter and other social media outlets to communicate its message, Trump has been unique in his use of the medium to set the agenda. In the beginning, Trump’s Twitter account was used mainly to promote Trump, Trump-branded products, and his television shows The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice. At that point, the account appears to have been run by people working for Trump rather than himself. At some point in early 2011, though, Trump took over the account on his own and started using it to comment on politics and things he saw on television, as well as to attack celebrities with whom he was feuding such as Rosie O’Donnell. At some point, he also started using it to comment on politics and to spread his attacks on former President Obama, including his insistence during that period that the President was not born in the United States. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now, though, there’s increasing evidence that Trump’s Presidential tweeting may not be having the as big an impact as it used to:

resident Trump’s Twitter interaction rate fell significantly in the eight months following his election and declined further in 2019, according to an analysis of data by CrowdTangle reported by Axios

Trump’s interaction rate, defined as retweets and likes per tweet divided by his number of followers, fell from 0.55 percent in November 2016 to 0.32 in June 2017, and was at 0.16 percent as of May 25.

The Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale told Axios that many of Trump’s tweets contain rhetoric he has repeated too often to shock casual readers.
For example, Trump has tweeted “no collusion” 54 times since April 1, “no obstruction” 30 times, “witch hunt” 20 times and “treason” seven times, the news outlet noted on Sunday.

While Trump’s interactions per tweet have increased recently, his followers have grown by a much larger percentage, according to the analysis. He is also tweeting more often, meaning the interactions are spread out across more posts. Trump tweeted 157 times per month during the first six-month period analyzed, but 284 times per month over the last six months, Axios added.

Trump is on track to see his lowest month in almost 2 1/2 years for Twitter interaction rates in May, even as he closes in on his one-month record for tweets, not counting retweets, according to the analysis.

Despite the frequent headlines generated by combative or insulting tweets from Trump, apolitical tweets from the president have generated some of his highest interaction rates, according to the analysis.  .

Part of the reason for the drop in Trump’s interaction rate may simply be due to the fact that he has far more Twitter followers how than he has in the past. At the moment, the President has roughly 60.7 million followers. Even assuming that some of them are not “real” accounts that’s still a heck of a lot of followers. It also means, though, that a measurement such as interaction that depends on the number of followers to be calculated is going to necessarily be impacted when the number of followers goes up. Nonetheless, it does appear that Trump’s tweets are having somewhat less of an impact, or at least that people are re-tweeting or responding to them at a lower rate than they used to.

It’s also worth noting that it’s likely that not all of the people who follow Trump are necessarily fans and supporters. It’s likely that nearly every political reporter out there follows him because keeping an eye on Presidential tweets and the impact they have on politics is, for better or worse, part of their job. Others seem to follow him out of a morbid sense of curiosity not unlike people who slow down when they pass the scene of an auto accident on the highway. Those people are unlikely to retweet or respond to the President’s ranting.

None of this is likely to mean that Trump is going to stop using Twitter any time soon. For better or worse, his Tweeting, which typically occurs either early in the morning or later at night, continues to drive news cycles and continues to be controversial. That’s likely only going to increase as we get closer to the 2020 election. Indeed, Trump has already started using his Twitter account to attack potential 2020 candidates such as Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg. He has also used it, of course, to attack the Russia investigation in general and Special Counsel Robert Mueller in particular. The closer we get to 2020, the more likely it is that this will increase.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Politicians, Science & Technology, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    It’s also worth noting that it’s likely that not all of the people who follow Trump are necessarily fans and supporters.

    I know quite a few people who follow him expressly to respond/rebut so that his feed doesn’t read like a glorification show of his nutty social media musings. I’m not sure how Twitter’s algorithms work, but the prominence of negative content appearing in Trump’s feed leads me to believe that there are plenty of non-supporters who follow him.

  2. Kathy says:

    I’m not on Twitter. Oh, I have an account, but I don’t go there or have the app in any of my devices. There are better ways to waste one’s time.

    As to the Orange Twit in particular, over 95% of what he Tweets is either wrong, irrelevant, or a lie. So who cares? Besides, like in every other thing, repetition ultimately gets boring.

  3. CSK says:

    Most people have ceased to be shocked by anything Trump says or does–which is not good.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    Before he was president I remember reading someone who had been a Trump observer since the 70’s*. He pointed out that whenever Trump got some venture or another off the ground he would eventually destroy its value because his solution to every crisis or desire to expand was the same: It needed more Trump. When he had the casinos and gave Ivana authority over one of them and it started outperforming his, he kicked her to the curb and took over and shortly they were all bankrupt. And although The Apprentice had a few good seasons, it started sliding down the ratings and his answer was that there should be more Trump on the show, and that his properties should be more highly featured. That accelerated the decline to where even as a low budget reality show it was in danger of being cancelled. It got a brief uptick as “The Celebrity Apprentice” but I’m sure even our resident Trump sycophants will concede that it wasn’t Trump’s idea to feature other famous people on his show and thereby give them some of the attention that would otherwise go to him. The airline, the actual real estate that he built, the hotel management business, all of it went the same way: Panic, more Trump, inevitable decline.

    This tweeting business is more of the same. Trump is under pressure so his solution is to give the people more of him.

    *Yes, even back then there were a lot of people who were fascinated by Trump. He was to the NYC business community what Florida Man is to the Internet as a whole.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It’s likely that nearly every political reporter out there follows him because keeping an eye on Presidential tweets and the impact they have on politics is, for better or worse, part of their job.

    Note to self, don’t be a journalist.

  6. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Hmm. Does the Constitution say Trump can’t take on a cabinet position or two? Because what better way to get even more Trump, than to take over some cabinet departments and run them the right way? Isn’t he the best at everything?

  7. grumpy realist says:

    Trump wants the US to benefit from the U.K. NHS….

    Labour is screaming.

  8. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m fairly active on Twitter and I think this study is right. People are just tired of the whole Trump act. He has to be more outrageous to get attention. I’ve started ignoring him. And muting the people who instantly respond to his every word — positive or negative.

  9. Gustopher says:

    I think it’s worth remembering that Donald Trump is a pedophile. He brags about being a pedophile.

    I half expect the Pedophile-In-Chief to tweet out the nuclear launch codes with a country he wants nuked.