Commentary

Trump's Net Approval Is Down, TV Data One Part Of Nuanced Picture

TV political viewing data can be a tricky affair. Does it reflect approval ratings for a president?

On Tuesday, across 11 networks, President Trump’s teleprompter White House speech -- followed by the Democratic response -- pulled in 35.3 million viewers (persons 2 and older) for around 10 minutes of TV time, according to Nielsen. Networks include ABC, Fox, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, CNBC, CNN, CNNe, Fox Business, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC.

Nielsen results come from its usual national TV estimates -- a sizable sample size of around 50,000 homes, or 118,000 people. Match this up with those presidential approval numbers that get bandied about -- perhaps with smaller sample sizes -- and you might have a interesting picture.

The latest from FiveThirtyEight.com -- when looking at a composite of number of polls as of January 9 -- shows the President's approval now at 41.1%, dropping from 42.5% on December 13. Disapproval ratings have now spiked up to 53.8% from 51.6% on December 13.

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Net approval for Trump is now at a “negative” 12.7 percentage points.

Is there any correlation?  

Nielsen says Trump's portion of his border-crisis speech grabbed a preliminary 28.1 household rating in metered markets on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CNN, Fox News and NBC. The Democratic response -- the Rep. Nancy Pelosi-Sen. Chuck Schumer rebuttal -- was higher, at a 29.3 household number.

For some history for these types of big news events, in September 2014, a President Obama-White House speech on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) pulled in 34 million viewers, according to Nielsen, when looking at 14 networks.

The approval rating back then for Obama was 45.7%. Factoring in “disapproval” meant a net approval for Obama was at a negative 3.4% percentage points. We don’t have any results of any post-Republican TV rating response.

Looking at like-to-like length of presidential days in office, through 720 days (January 9, 2019), Trump is at a net approval rating of negative 12.7 percentage points. Through the same number of days in the White House, President Obama climbed into a net positive on the approval/disapproval numbers -- 1.9 percentage points.

Nielsen TV data does not tell all; nor do approval ratings. Specific voter polling can typically reveal deeper attributes. In the age of growing “Big Data,” first-party data will become even more important.

2 comments about "Trump's Net Approval Is Down, TV Data One Part Of Nuanced Picture".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 11, 2019 at 12:05 p.m.

    Those look like really tiny shifts that could be measurement error or random error. Not every number is gospel truth when humans collect and supply the data. Remember how Arbitron used to put on the back of their books, "Remember, ratings are only estimates.”

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, January 11, 2019 at 4:41 p.m.

    Correct Douglas.

    And in life if often doesn't matter "how many" people but "which" people approve, as demonstrated by the 2016 Presidential Election result.   Being an Aussie we highly value, "one man, one vote".

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