YouGov Releases Polling Data on 3,000 Tweets From Trump’s Twitter Account


Nearly every news cycle in the Trump Era contains at least one predictable part—the Trump Tweet. Whether the news cycle is about a policy debate, a political scandal, a cultural fight between Trump and a celebrity—or something else entirely—the president almost always tweets something.

And then political media collectively tries to answer the same question: Do the American people like what Trump tweeted? Do they find his informal (sometimes crass) style refreshing or embarrassing? Are his tweets just red meat for the base, or do they help him directly reach people who are more skeptical of his policies and personality?

It’s hard to answer these questions in an empirical way. Most pollsters (understandably) either don’t collect or don’t release data on individual tweets. There are a lot of other important questions that need to be asked, and tweets have a short half-life. So the media just sort of has to guess how the broader public feels about Trump’s tweets.

But YouGov is here to change that. They’ve been using their innovative, massive online panel to ask a representative group of Americans to rate individual Trump tweets every single day. Specifically, they’ve been recording their data in their publicly available Tweet Index, and they were kind enough to compile data from over 3,000 tweets from February of 2017 through late July of 2018 and share it with THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

YouGov lets their respondents rate Trump tweets as “Great,” “Good,” “OK,” “Bad,” or “Terrible” and translates those ratings into an overall score that theoretically runs from -200 (everyone thinks it’s terrible) to +200 (everyone thinks it’s great). You can read more about the math here, but the basic gist is that you can think of highly negative scored tweets as unpopular and high positive scored tweets as popular.

There are a lot of different things you can do with this data, but we’ll start with some basic questions: Is the average Trump Tweet popular? What were Trump’s most- and least-popular tweets? How much do Republicans and Democrats disagree on tweets?

Most of the Time, People Don’t Love Trump’s Tweets

We can get a good sense of whether people generally like Trump’s tweets by using a histogram.

The histogram shows a big bump between -50 and 0, which means that there were a lot of tweets that Americans generally disliked. There were some tweets with a rating below -50, but there weren’t a ton. The sort of sloping shape that goes right from zero and stops somewhere after 50 indicates that Trump has had a solid number of popular tweets.

So the average Trump tweet isn’t popular, but it’s not wildly unpopular either. The average overall score is -9.8, the median tweet gets a score of -15 and there’s a big bump in the negative area of the histogram. But the spread is big, too. There are tweets that get overall ratings as high as 83 and as low as -81.

Which Trump Tweets are Good? Which Ones Are Terrible?

I took a quick swing through the 50 highest-rated and lowest-rated tweets to see what Trump’s high and low points were.

The lowest rated tweet in the dataset was, weirdly, this one:

The second-lowest rated tweet was this one:

These tweets also made the bottom 50:

Some of Trump’s least-popular tweets seem to be ones where he personally attacks someone. The 50-lowest scored tweets included insults directed at Oprah, Chelsea Clinton, Bob Corker, Jemele Hill, Michael Wolff, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and some media outlets.

But that doesn’t mean that Trump’s insults are categorically unpopular. I haven’t hand-coded these tweets by topic or type, so it’s hard for me to say with certainty that any specific type of tweet is always unpopular. But it’s still interesting to explore the data in this way.

Trump’s most popular tweets were much less flashy:

A lot of Trump’s most popular tweets fall into a similar category—tweets that congratulate the armed forces or first responders, wish people happy holidays, send condolences, or just generally do some of the ceremonial things that presidents tend to do. Put simply, Trump’s most popular tweets are mostly standard-issue presidential tweets written in Trump’s voice.

Republicans and Democrats (Sort of) Agree on Trump’s Tweets

YouGov also broke down the data by partisan affiliation of respondencts and assigned each tweet a “Republican,” “Democratic,” and “Independent” scores (it’s the same -200 to +200 scale described above). This allows you to see how both parties reacted to thousands of tweets.

And they actually “agreed” more than I thought they would:

trump scatter maybe smaller.jpg

This is a simple scatter where every point is a Trump tweet. The horizontal location of the point corresponds to the Democratic rating, and the vertical location is the GOP rating.

The basic feature of this data might not be obvious, but it is simple: It shows that if a tweet gets a high Republican rating, it’s also getting a (relatively) high Democratic rating. True, Republicans still rate almost every one of Trump’s tweets positively and Democrats still rate almost all of Trump’s tweets negatively. But as a very rough rule, if Democrats hate a Trump tweet, Republicans tend to be lukewarm (rather than strongly positive) about it. And if Republicans love a tweet, Democrats might feel middling about it instead of strongly negative. The correlation between these variables is 0.66—suggesting that there’s some real relationship between how Republicans and Democrats feel about tweets.

And the exceptions to that rough rule are also worth talking through. I looked into the tweets in the top left hand side of the graphic to find the polarizing tweets—the tweets that Republican respondents, generally liked but that Democrats generally disliked. A lot of these tweets seem to target the media, the Russia investigation, the Affordable Care Act, or high-profile Democrats (e.g. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton). There are some other scattered topics (NFL protests, Mexico, bragging about trade, Russia itself), but it seemed like some of the most polarizing tweets were attacks on Obama or the media. This intuitively makes sense. Democrats tend to trust the media more than Republicans and they like Obama. Many Republicans dislike Obama, don’t trust the media, and like Trump,—we should expect those tweets to be polarizing.

We’ll have more detailed analyses of this data in coming days and weeks. But this first pass gives us a way to push back on some elements of the conventional wisdom, like the idea that all Republicans love all of Trump’s tweets, or that Trump’s Twitter stream is a pure-positive for him in terms of voters. For better or worse, presidential tweets are part of this administration in a real way now, so it’s nice to be able to do some empirical analysis about them.





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