Is Trump's Ability to Shock People Wearing Off?

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with a group of sheriffs from around the country, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

There is some analytical evidence that Donald Trump’s ability to shock and outrage the average voter has been in decline.

The evidence comes to us via the traffiic analytics site



By the numbers: Digital demand for Trump-related content (number of article views compared to number of articles written) has dropped 29% between the first 6 months of the Trump presidency and the most recent 6 months, according to data from traffic analytics company

  • Evidence that Trump’s social media star power was also beginning to wear off surfaced last month, when Axios reported that his tweets were receiving less than half the engagement that they got when he first took office.

Similar trends are happening in more traditional media settings:

  • In March, New York Times COO Meredith Kopit Levien told Axios during a panel at SXSW that the paper’s subscription “Trump Bump” ended in mid-2018.

  • In December, media research firm MoffettNathanson found that live news network ratings were down “in the -10% to -20% range” for the better part of 2018. Overall, the firm found that ratings around TV news coverage overall began to decline after the 2016 election.

  • Cable TV networks, which still reach a majority of Americans with political news coverage, began pulling back on Trump campaign rallies late last year because they weren’t driving ratings, according to Politico.

The Democratic-media complex worked hand-in-glove on Trump coverage. Whenever Trump said something ignorant or outrageous, Democrats could be expected to pounce:


The shock factor around President Trump’s unplanned announcements, staff departures, taunting tweets and erratic behavior is wearing off, and media companies are scrambling to find their next big moneymaker.

Driving the news: Executives tell Axios that Trump fatigue is very real: Interest in political coverage overall is down, which is spurring investments in other beats, like technology and the global economy.

  • Democrats don’t appear to be the lifeline media companies are hoping can fill the gap for diminished Trump interest. Executives say they expect this week’s debate ratings to be nothing like the ratings for the 2016 Trump debates.

It’s pretty obvious that this state of affairs benefits Trump politically. If the voter can get past the Trump sleaze and gross-out factors, they will probably be much more willing to hold their noses and vote for him rather than  some unknown, hysterical, radical Democrat.

It’s not just people suffering from “Outrage Fatigue.” Both right and left are guilty of exaggerating misstatements, taking words and actions out of context, “proving” one thing or another by a single incident that can be cycled through the social media mixer and blown hugely out of proportion. (“MeToo” anyone?)

Trump’s ability to shock us — a strategy he sometimes deliberately nurtures and almost playfully engages in — has been a political asset. People may have been shocked at whatever Trump did or said, but they were even more shocked by the Democratic-media hysteria in the reaction to it. It made the opposition appear unhinged to talk about “dictatorship” or that Trump “was ruining the country” when everyone else was going about their daily business, living their lives unaffected by Trump “authoritarianism.”

The Democrats have no one to match Trump in media stardom. That’s why even diminished interest in Trump’s antics still has an excellent chance of putting the president over the top and winning the 2020 race for re-election.



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