President Donald Trump’s often-combative press conference last Thursday raised quite a few questions ― among them, what sort of reaction, if any, it would garner from people who don’t have to watch 77-minute midday press conferences for a living.
A new HuffPost/YouGov survey offers some answers. Most people who tuned in with pre-existing opinions of the president, for instance, found their opinions confirmed. And most people who lacked those preconceived notions weren’t watching in first place. But overall, the event, while by no means cataclysmically damaging, probably did Trump no favors.
Just 11 percent of Americans report watching the whole press conference, according to the survey. Another 33 percent say they watched parts, or saw clips and highlights later, and another 18 percent that they read or watched news stories about it. The rest, 38 percent, hadn’t heard anything about it. Even that likely overstates the audience a little bit ― people who agree to take surveys about politics tend to be somewhat more politically engaged than average, and people may also want to portray themselves as more attentive than they actually are.
Those who paid any attention to the press conference tended to be politically aware, opinionated, and not overly fond of the president. Sixty-one percent say they follow government and current affairs “most of the time,” 94 percent have an opinion of Trump’s job performance (44 percent approve and 51 percent disapprove), and nearly three-quarters have a strong opinion, whether that’s positive (29 percent) or negative (44 percent).
Since the survey was taken after the conference, of course, those ratings could be shaped partially by their opinions of his performance last week. But they also line up neatly with past voting behavior ― 94 percent of those who paid attention to the press conference and voted for Hillary Clinton last year disapprove of Trump, while 96 percent of Trump voters who tuned in still approve of him.
By a 13-point margin, 34 percent to 21 percent, those who paid attention to the press conference say it worsened, rather than improved, their views of his actions as president, with 40 percent saying it didn’t change their opinion. By a 16-point margin, 32 percent to 16 percent, they say it worsened their views of his temperament, although again the plurality say it didn’t do anything to change their minds.
Trump’s attacks on the media ― he called the press, among other things, “out of control,” “dishonest” and “fake” ― also saw a generally negative reception. Those who paid attention to the press conference say by an 11-point margin, 49 percent to 38 percent, that Trump treated the media unfairly. By contrast, 47 percent think the media’s treatment of Trump was fair, with just 32 percent calling it unfair.
But those predisposed to like or to dislike Trump largely left with those opinions intact.
Just 2 percent of Trump voters who paid attention to the press conference say it worsened their view of his actions or his temperament. The overwhelming majority, 87 percent, say he treated the media fairly, and 61 percent that the media was unfair in its treatment of him.
By contrast, 60 percent of voters for Hillary Clinton who paid attention say it worsened their opinion of Trump’s actions, and 56 percent that it worsened their opinion of his temperament. Eighty-eight percent think he treated the media unfairly, and 82 percent that the media was fair toward him.
Everyone else ― non-voters and those who supported a third-party candidate ― are seemingly in the middle. While 16 percent say it improved their opinion of his actions and 12 percent that it improved their opinion of his temperament, more, 38 percent and 37 percent respectively, say it worsened their views. By a more than 2-to-1 margin, 52 percent to 23 percent, they say he treated the media unfairly. Their opinions are also motivated by partisanship, with those who consider themselves Republicans or Republican-leaning mostly saying their opinions were improved or unchanged, and those more tied to the Democratic Party saying the opposite. The sliver who consider themselves true independents also generally say their views were worsened or unchanged.
While the survey makes it clear that the press conference didn’t radically alter public opinion, it’s hard to put an exact number on how many minds were changed at all, or to quantify how many minds would have to have been changed to constitute a significant impact.
It may, however, further a sense that Trump’s priorities aren’t always in line with the public’s top concerns. Just three in 10 of all the Americans polled say Trump is spending enough time on the issues they care about most, while 46 percent say the president is spending too much time on other issues. Even among those who approve of Trump’s job performance, 69 percent say he’s spending enough time on the issues they care about, while 15 percent think he’s focused on other things, and 16 percent aren’t sure.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Feb. 17-18 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls.You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.