In an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Wednesday, President Trump reiterated his long-standing argument for using Twitter the way he does: It’s his form of issuing press releases to the American public.
“I have close to 100 million people watching me on Twitter, including Facebook, including all of the Instagram, including @POTUS, including lots of things — but we have — I guess pretty close to 100 million people,” Trump said. “I have my own form of media.”
He continued the thought later. “So, when I can reach, whether it’s 90 million or 100 million or 80 million, however many people it may turn out to be, when you add everything up — and then of course it gets disseminated from there, when I can reach that many people — Twitter is a wonderful thing for me, because I get the word out.”
We’ll first note that if you add up his followers on Twitter (both for @realdonaldtrump and @potus), Facebook and Instagram, you actually get about 70 million. Of course, many of those millions are duplicates, people who follow him on Twitter and Facebook, or Twitter and Instagram or all four. But it’s certainly the case that there’s a halo effect at play. Trump tweets and the mainstream media picks it up and then far, far more people see what he said.
So it’s true that Twitter lets Trump get the word out. But the problem for Trump isn’t the megaphone. It’s the message.
Shortly before the Carlson interview aired, Fox News released a poll that included a question about Trump’s Twitter habits. Fully half of respondents disapprove of the way he uses the medium. Only 16 percent approve.
Broken down by political leaning, things don’t get much better. Only 30 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of his own voters think he uses Twitter appropriately. More than two-thirds of Republicans wish he’d be more cautious in his tweets or disapprove of how he tweets overall. More than 6 in 10 of his own voters say the same thing.
What’s remarkable about this poll, frankly, is that the number of people who flatly support Trump’s tweeting is below the 30 to 40 percent that made up an unwavering core of support for Trump during the campaign. That core group, heavily made up of white voters without college degrees, was supportive of Trump consistently and enthusiastically, powering him through the primaries and helping him win the general election against Hillary Clinton in November. But when it comes to tweeting, they’re less enthusiastic. Only a quarter of whites without a college degree approve of Trump’s tweeting.
This really isn’t that different from Trump’s off-the-cuff rally speeches. He gets a lot of attention for them, and some people really like them. A lot of people don’t. Think of his tweets as little mini-rally-speeches that he can distribute a few times a day. Trump’s right: Twitter gives him a giant audience for whatever he wants to say. It’s just that people then hear what he said, and don’t always appreciate it.