When presidents attack....

July 06, 2017, 5:37 PM GMT+0

73% of U.S. adults think it is inappropriate for the President to tweet personal attacks to individuals

Donald Trump has always fought back when he feels under attack. In the last few weeks, he has tweeted attacks on former FBI Director James Comey, MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, CNN and the entire news media. The public perceives him as on the attack. But the perception of negative tweets, as well as questions about his attitudes towards women, may be hurting, and not helping his image.

Americans see attacks as dominant in his tweets. Asked in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll whether the President’s tweets are mostly positive, negative or neutral, a majority says they are negative (Republicans are much more evenly divided).

And the public thinks those attacks are not right. Most believe official announcements and congratulations are definitely appropriate for a presidential twitter account, but attacks are not. Both parties’ identifiers agree. Majorities of Republicans oppose attacks on individuals. More Republicans say attacks on Democrats are inappropriate than say the opposite.

In Economist/YouGov polls throughout Donald Trump’s Administration, a majority has said the way the President uses Twitter is inappropriate. Republicans feel differently in principle, although in this week’s poll, after a week’s worth of negative tweets, Republicans are just as likely to think the President’s use of Twitter is inappropriate as appropriate. Last week, 62% of Republicans said the President used Twitter appropriately.

This apparent Republican change has been fueled by Republican women [in the last week the President mentioned Brzezinski several times in his tweets, specifically attacking her looks and her intelligence]. Asked this week if the President’s use of twitter is appropriate, women Republicans think it is not. Male Republicans think it is.

Americans don’t necessarily like Scarborough and Brzezinski. Those with an opinion (about half the public) are slightly more likely to have unfavorable as favorable opinion of each of them. But the President’s tweets are even more unpopular.

Beginning on February 4 (two weeks after the Inauguration), YouGov instituted its Tweetindex, asking the public to evaluate the President’s tweets on a daily basis. A representative sample of approximately 1,000 adults each day rank every tweet on a scale that starts at “great,” and includes “good,” “okay,” “bad” and “terrible.” Positive assessments (“good” and “great”) get positive scores, negative ones (“bad” and “terrible”) negative marks. A perfect score of all 1,000 respondents rating a tweet as "great" would be 200, while the opposite, all 1,000 respondents rating a tweet as "terrible," would end up with a -200 score. The overall national scores range from a high of 83 to a low of -81. As might be expected, Democrats give most tweets a negative rating (after all, 82% of Democrats disapprove of the way President Trump is handling his job), while so far Republicans have ranked only one tweet negatively.

The most negatively rated tweets are those that attack. The lowest assessment (and the only tweet Republicans rank negatively) came from early in the Trump Administration and was an attack on Mark Cuban.

As of now, six of the ten most disliked tweets were sent in the last week. They include the sequence of three directed at Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, and two anti-CNN tweets. [The other most disliked tweets in the last five months were attacks on Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Apprentice ratings, the May 12 threat of tapes of the Trump-Comey conversations (a claim since retracted), and the March 4 claim that then-President Obama had tapped Trump’s phone during the election.]

The Brzezinski-Scarborough tweets that are at the bottom of the approval ratings were seen in the Economist/YouGov Poll as inappropriate by two-thirds of the public, and seen negatively by most Republicans as well. Women Republicans are particularly troubled. Twice as many GOP men as women thought these specific Trump tweets were appropriate.

One in four Republican women said that the tweets about Brzezinski and Scarborough made them feel worse about the President.

A majority of Americans don’t believe the President respects women – but that was also true before the election. While six in ten overall say his treatment of women is an important indicator of his ability to serve as President, two in three Republicans – and two in three Republican women – disagree.

Democrats are especially annoyed by attacks on their party, on President Obama and on Hillary Clinton and the election process. As of now, the absolutely lowest rated tweet among Democrats includes an attack on the election, on the news media plus a reference to Russia.

Nearly two-thirds of Republicans called that tweet either “good” (26%) or “great” (36%).

What tweets are the most popular? Those that highlight sacrifice and the military. The top five were sent on the anniversary of D-Day, on Memorial Day, on Armed Forces Day and on June 19, when the President sent his thoughts and prayers to the families of the sailors who died on the USS Fitzgerald. Republicans, Independents and Democrats gave all those tweets positive evaluations.

See the rest of this week's YouGov/Economist Poll

YouGov/Economist Poll archives