It appears that the response to President Donald Trump’s impromptu comments regarding disinfectants may have had a demonstrable negative effect on his polling numbers.
President Donald Trump has seen his share of adversity, and poor or even unfair news coverage. His polls have shown a dynamic movement, though he’s never enjoyed a majority approval of his actions in aggregate polls. However, his highest aggregate polling numbers occurred this year, after the passage of the economic stimulus package with direct payments to Americans.
The comments we are referring to happened during a live press conference on April 23, 2020. The video below is unaltered, and from a FOX news affiliate in Pheonix, Arizona, FOX News 10 Pheonix:
What is Aggregate Polling?
Real Clear Politics, a website that aggregates polling data without applying a political spin to them, was founded by a Republican. We found this site to be highly accurate, leading up to the 2016 election. They put out clear information in the form of poll aggregates.
Aggregate simply defined is “sum,” or “whole,” and means that you take many things together to get a whole or total view of the data.
On RealClearPolitics, the data from all polls are collected and averaged out, showing trends much more clearly than taking any single poll into account. It helps remove some of the bias caused by so many polls having politically motivated funding sources — or those that cherry-pick respondents or word questions deceptively to get the answers they want.
How We Determined Our Conclusions
Looking at Trump’s approval/disapproval ratings over the last year, then specifically over the last 30 days, we matched highs and lows with White House events occurring shortly before, or early on the day of, polls used for the aggregate results in the graphs.
The role of mainstream news:
We assumed that many of President Donald Trump’s supporters are likely to get their news exclusively or nearly exclusively from sources that Trump sees as accurate or from him, alone. Further, that people reading or getting their news from sources that are generally considered unacceptable or “Fake News” — like CNN — would likely never claim support or approval of the president, and therefore, those news sources handling of this event likely have little to do with the results here.
Those assumptions were made based in part on Pew Research data stating that Republicans who support the president were more likely to believe journalists lack ethics. Further, on research data that FOX news was the primary source of news for 40 percent of President Trump’s voters in 2016.
We also relied on polls showing that nearly 80 percent of Republicans currently trust the President’s information “moderately” or “a great deal,” above even state and local information about the pandemic.
Because those viewers are most likely to have seen all of the following directly from the White House briefings or news sources presenting the White House’s information directly, we did not find evidence that mainstream reporting was a determining factor here.
The Aggregate Polls in Question
On February 03, 2017, the President earned his highest previous aggregate approval rating, at 47.3 percent. Here is President Trump’s entire term in the White House, to date, in aggregate polling numbers:
Below, the chart has been changed to cover only the last year. The red line on the top is the disapproval numbers, the black line is approval:
The biggest approval spike, throughout his entire presidency, brought him to nearly 48 percent approval (47.3 percent) on March 30, 2020. The drop following that seems to be impatience with IRS stimulus checks perceived delays. However, around the time they did begin to hit people’s accounts on April 11th, he regains that loss back to around his previous approval numbers.
Specifically, on handling the Coronavirus pandemic, the poll numbers are quite striking and show a marked fall on or around April 23rd, also:
The spike in overall disapproval shown by a vertical line indicating the exact date, below, happens on April 23, 2020 and continues until it evens out at 44.9 percent on April 29, 2020:
The second fall in approval before that evening out, after April 23, is April 24, 2020. On that day, Trump referred to his comments in the above video as sarcastic, and directed at reporters, “just to see what would happen.”
After Controversy, President Trump Claims His Comments On Injecting Disinfectants Were ‘Sarcastic’
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) April 24, 2020
Later that day, the White House apparently changed course in their response to the comments. The official commentary appears to move from “sarcasm” to deliberate media manipulation of his original queries, officially stating that his comments were “irresponsibly” taken out of context.
White House spox, Kayleigh McEnany stated:
“President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterdays’ briefing,” McEnany said in a statement. “Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines.”
While this is not an exhaustive investigation, it does appear that — at least in part — either President Trump’s original comments, or his claim they were sarcastic, or the claim that he was taken out of context, may have contributed to costing him the gains back towards the record approval level earned earlier in the month.