How Americans understand the President's tweets

January 25, 2018, 6:00 PM GMT+0

Only 16% believe Donald Trump’s tweets represent government policy

President Trump’s tweets are scrutinized and reported on as headline news. YouGov TweetIndex analyzes whether Americans likes or dislikes specific tweets. But how do Americans interpret the President’s overall tweeting habits?

Federal courts have cited the President’s tweets as evidence in rulings about immigration. But in the latest Economist/YouGov poll the public isn’t convinced they should be taken as matters of policy. Only 16% believe Donald Trump’s tweets represent government policy. In fact, relatively few say they believe most of them. Instead, many look at the tweets as a President simply expressing himself.

45% of Republicans agree that the tweets do not represent government policy. They are also even more likely than other Americans to say they are a way for the President “to express himself” – 76% of Republicans think that.

Americans clearly have mixed views about the tweets. Only one in four say they believe most of them, and only 7% believe all of them. Republicans, although more trustful, don’t accept all the tweets. Although a majority of Republicans (57%) believe most of what the President puts into his tweets, just 17% of Republicans believe all of them.

But there is also a clear feeling that the President himself believes what he is tweeting. Nearly six in ten think he believes what he is writing all or most of the time. More than a third of both Republicans and Democrats say Mr. Trump believes what he is tweeting “all” of the time.

Consequently, for half the public, the tweets should be taken at least somewhat seriously, and what should be taken seriously is “exactly” what the President says. 43% of Democrats as well as two-thirds of Republicans say that. But 38% disagree, and think they shouldn’t be taken very seriously – or not seriously at all. Those who believe the tweets say should be taken very seriously are the most likely to think they do in fact represent government policy.

What the tweets do is give the President an opportunity to attack his opponents. The most negatively evaluated tweets are attack tweets; the most positively assessed ones are those that celebrate sacrifice and holidays.

And attack is what a majority believe the tweets mainly do.

Republicans say the President is using Twitter to explain himself directly to the public. Independents and Democrats think the opposite.

Throughout the year, the Economist/YouGov Polls have been asking the public whether what the President is doing in using Twitter is appropriate or inappropriate. The public has consistently said the President’s Twitter use is inappropriate, often by better than two to one. This week is no exception: only 25% call the President’s use of Twitter appropriate. 58% disagree. A majority of Republicans say his use is appropriate.

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