Less than 48 hours after President Trump returned from his three-day weekend at Mar-a-Lago, some bad news arrived for the chief executive in the form of a new poll from Quinnipiac University.
Fifty percent of Americans, it turns out, think Trump works less hard than past presidents. Only a quarter of respondents thought he worked harder.
Unsurprisingly, there was a partisan gulf in how people viewed Trump’s work ethic. More than half of Republicans said they felt Trump worked harder than most presidents. About half of independents said he worked less hard — and more than 8 in 10 Democrats agreed.
We are not here to judge this question, which is largely subjective. It’s certainly true the presidency is a 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year job, and the president never really has true leisure time. It is also true, though, Trump builds in a lot more time where it is not clear what work he might be doing.
Trump, for example, has a much lighter schedule than past presidents — fewer official events and meetings. A recent report from Axios indicated Trump’s days include a lot of what’s termed “executive time” — slack time during which Trump can (and often does) tune in to cable news and call friends. The site’s Jonathan Swan saw the president’s schedule for one recent day, including 5½ hours of executive time in a workday that ended at 4:15 p.m. On the face of it, that doesn’t suggest the president always has his nose to the grindstone.
Nor does the fact that his early morning executive time often includes a lot of time spent watching Fox News. Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz has been tracking Trump’s “Fox and Friends” watching for months, aligning Trump’s morning tweets with what he sees on television. There have been several days of Trump’s presidency during which he tweets about that particular show for well over an hour.
Then there are his weekends. On more than half of weekends in 2017, Trump was away from the White House, often at one of the properties owned by his private business. To date, Trump’s been president on 363 days, and on 121 of those days he has visited a Trump-brand property.
Based on his schedule, he’s also probably played 77 rounds of golf, a figure that far outpaces former president Barack Obama’s golfing during his first year in office. It is a round once every 4.7 days — and about once every four days so far in 2018. (He played on three of the four days he was at Mar-a-Lago last weekend.)
The natural question, then, is: Do Trump’s light schedule and frequent trips to his own golf clubs simply not resonate with Republicans? Or is this simply another issue on which partisanship prevails, with Democrats who know nothing about Trump’s schedule simply saying he works less hard because they do not like him?
We do get one indicator from another set of data. The Internet Archive has been collecting closed-captioning from cable news programs for some time, stretching back well past the start of Trump’s presidency. The most popular cable news network among Republicans is Fox News — by a wide margin — and both Fox News and Fox Business were less likely than CNN or MSNBC to discuss golf in the context of Trump during his first year in office.
The peak of CNN’s mentions of golf was 71 times in one day, with a total of 1,437 mentions over the course of the year. MSNBC mentioned golf in the context of the president 1,185 times. Fox News mentioned it only 824 times, more than a third less than CNN.
It seems clear that, whatever the cause, Trump’s frequent weekends away from the White House will not help any perceptions he does not work as hard.
Something to think about on that next long flight down to Palm Beach.