Trump’s Approval Ratings are Resilient. How Does that Compare Historically?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

Despite all the controversy attached to his presidency, Donald Trump has managed to retain a relatively consistent approval rating in the last two years — especially when compared to predecessors in the modern era.

The president’s approval rating has climbed some in recent weeks after a significant decline in January, reverting to around the average during the last two years.

Perhaps it’s the tribalism in American politics or the fragmented news ecosystem or the president’s skills as a communicator — but, for some reason, Trump hasn’t experienced the wide fluctuations of his predecessors.

He also, of course, remains historically unpopular.

According to Gallup, the president’s rating changes have stayed within a 14 percentage point range.

Other presidents — even those who only served one term — have experienced wider swings in their popularity over time. The late George H.W. Bush, for example, saw his popularity drop from 89% in February 1991 to 29% the following summer, a massive change.

Here are all the presidents, and their popularity ranges, since Harry Truman:

Image courtesy WikiMedia Commons

Visualizing a Year of @realDonaldTrump

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics, Social Media

President Trump thumbed his way through another year in the White House on Twitter, compiling a good (great) collection of 2,930 touts, complaints, defenses and rants.

He left 2018 with this perplexing New Year’s Eve missive extolling the old-fashioned endurance of “Walls” and “Wheels” as one of his last.

As the message shows, the president’s twitter presence lately is crowded by an increasingly evergreen list of grievances (Democrats, Russia, fake news, etc). Still, plenty of his messages actually correspond quite neatly with news events.

Notice how the #maga hashtag, a political rallying cry, disappears after the midterm elections. He talks about The Wall and shutdowns in and around the shutdowns, of course. And he decries Special Counsel Robert Mueller most often around the times his former aides have appeared (and been convicted or pleaded guilty) in federal court.

These examples are obvious when plotted on a timeline with annotation:

Through it all, the president’s audience of followers grew steadily by 10 million users. He now has 56.7 million followers (me included). He’s No. 15 on that measure, according to friendorfollow.com, sandwiched between heavy hitters like @selenagomez and @britneyspears!

During 2018, @realDonaldTrump spread his tweets throughout the days of the week, with the president even finding time on the weekends to sound off:

This large collection of messages, scraped using twint, drew more than 300 million of engagements, with “likes” being most common by far. This one about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a year ago received a whopping 475,000 likes, topping the list.

Here’s how those engagements split proportionally:

Speaking of retweets, there were 57 million in 2018. They came at the rate of 200,000 per day in some months. This popular “they-just-don’t-get-it” mashup of video clips, for example, received more than 110,000 retweets alone in July:

And, finally, as in years past, those messages were a mix of endorsements, promotions, defenses and complaints. Among the more popular keywords (sorry, no word clouds here):

You can download the data as a CSV here. Happy New Year!

Let’s Tess(t)ellate: The Electoral College in Tile Grid Maps, 1980-2012

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

I recently added some new charting tools here thanks to NPR’s excellent daily graphics rig, which we used recently to compare air quality in Seoul with other large cities.

There’s still plenty of tinkering to be done here with the rig, especially with deployment to WordPress. But as a first public test, I made several tile grid maps to show Electoral College results in presidential elections since 1980. The “maps” use a tessellated grid of hexagons, rather than actual geographic shapes, to show Republican red and Democratic blue.