Donald Trump is bragging about a ratings “victory” over Hillary Clinton for all the wrong reasons.
The Republican presidential nominee was always a ratings hound. To him, the Nielsen numbers are a sacred thing -- better than any other validator out there for backing up his contention about how popular he is.
His love affair with the Nielsens began when “The Apprentice” began in 2004, and he would personally call TV reporters and columnists on the morning after the show aired to report the “amazing” ratings he received in the overnights.
In the days since last Friday, when the ratings came out for Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech on the fourth and final night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Trump has been ballyhooing the ratings for his acceptance speech a week earlier.
They were higher, which he seems only too glad to point out. As reported in various places, Trump’s acceptance speech drew an audience of 32.2 million across 10 commercial networks. Clinton’s drew 29.8 million. These figures didn’t include PBS, according to some of the stories, but if you add the PBS audience, it was Trump 34.9 million and Clinton 33.8 million (a narrower margin to be sure than the numbers without PBS).
Whatever the margin, for a guy like Trump, a win’s a win. The man is a gloater. And so he gloats. That’s what he does.
What’s really incredible is that he believes that this ratings “win” indicates more people love him than love Hillary Clinton. It never seems to dawn on him that people will watch someone -- or something -- on TV for reasons other than affection.
I like to think no one really likes to rubberneck when driving by an auto accident, for example, but we do it anyway. Unfortunately for the GOP, the Trump campaign is a trainwreck. That probably accounts for at least some of the viewership of Trump’s speech on July 21 in Cleveland. They tuned in to see what outrageous thing Candidate Trainwreck would do or say this time.
It was the same phenomenon that lifted the ratings of all of the GOP debates Trump participated in. There too, he believes the high ratings for the debates were because everybody must love him. That was not the reason, but try telling him that.
Many probably tuned in for Trump’s acceptance speech last month because they were hopeful -- deranged as this might seem now, in retrospect -- that Trump would deliver The Speech that he needed to give, one that would exude optimism, talk specifically about how he views the world, and outline in measured, eloquent tones what he intends to do about the problems that are in America’s interest to solve both domestically and internationally.
Unfortunately, his speech was a disappointment to those who were hopeful that he would come to his senses and deliver a speech aimed at attracting more support from the many who were still undecided about him at that point. To bring more people into the tent, he would have been required to tone down his angry-Donald act, something he did not do.
As a result, many people watched his speech. But a number of them came away from the experience not very much in love with Trump. This story on the Washington Post Web site has some interesting Gallup data that attempted to quantify the reactions to Trump’s speech.
According to the data cited in the story, Clinton’s acceptance speech was pronounced “poor” and “terrible” by 20 percent of those who watched it. Trump’s “poor/terrible” score was 36%. To be fair, Trump’s speech scored a “good/excellent” rating of 35 percent. Clinton’s “good/excellent” score was 44%.
But you might conclude that the 35% who liked Trump’s speech were mainly those who are already supporting him. You might also wonder how many of the 36% who thought his speech was terrible might have been converted into potential supporters if he had only tried to tailor his speech toward the goal of actually winning over people’s hearts and minds.
Oh, well. Trump can cling to the Nielsen numbers all he wants, but they’re really little more than a tallying of eyeballs. His problem might be that every time the Nielsen numbers rise for one of his TV appearances, it only means he’s potentially turning off more people who once upon a time might have considered voting for him.