When Time Magazine announced 16-year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, as its 2019 Person of the Year, a former POY winner had something to say. President Donald Trump, who was selected for the award in 2016, posted on Twitter “so ridiculous” with a suggestion that Thunberg needed to “work on her anger management.”
Thunberg drew global attention in 2019 as an environmental activist after she sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in August to attend a climate conference to make a statement about energy consumption. She became a foil for Trump after a video emerged of the teenager glaring in his direction while at the United Nations. Her impassioned speeches about addressing climate change often draw a contrast with Trump’s own policies, and she’s inspired climate protests around the world.
Trump has mocked Thunberg on Twitter before. In September, Thunberg said in a speech that, “People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth.” Trump retweeted the video with a seemingly sarcastic comment, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”
The barbs at Thunberg were hardly a home run for Trump. The general public viewed Trump’s tweets about Thunberg slightly less favorably than his typical tweets. (Trump’s tweets generally draw a -21 on YouGov’s TweetIndex scale of -200 to +200). Americans scored Trump’s most recent missive that Thunberg needed to “work on her anger management” (-49) slightly lower than his initial post (-31).
Every day, YouGov asks a nationally representative sample of US adults to rate the president's tweets on a five-point scale from Great (+2) to Terrible (-2), which produces an overall score for how the general population feels about the tweet on a scale from -200 (if everyone thinks it is terrible) to +200 (if everyone thinks it is great).
Among Republicans, as well, Trump scored lower than he typically does. The median score that Republicans give Trump’s tweets is +102, but the posts about Thunberg earned +80 and +65, respectively. Trump’s tweet about Thunberg being a “happy young girl” scored higher than the median score for Democrats (-115), but the message that she needed anger management scored below the median (-138), perhaps lending sympathy to the young activist.
While Republicans gave the tweets a positive score, they tend to rate Trump’s personal attacks on public figures or media outlets lower than other messages.
Trump’s most-popular tweets among Republicans are when he thanks military servicemen and servicewomen (+171). In contrast, Republicans gave Trump his only negative score (-18) for an attack on the intellect of American businessman and Dallas Mavericks’ owner, Mark Cuban, in February 2017. Other low scores came when Trump attacked Arnold Schwarzenegger (+4), Joe Scarborough (+6), and Tom Steyer (+21) on Twitter. Each of those low scores came during the first year of Trump’s presidency.
Methodology: YouGov TweetIndex shows how the public rate each tweet from President Donald Trump’s official Twitter account. At the end of every day, YouGov shows a representative sample of US adults the tweets sent in the past 24 hours by President Trump. The panelists are asked to rate the posts on a scale Great (+2), Good (+1), OK (0), Bad (-1), and Terrible (-2). Theoretically, scores can range from -200 (if everyone thought the tweet was “Terrible”) to +200 (if everyone thought the tweet was “Great”).