Donald Trump’s prolific use of Twitter has been one of the most distinctive aspects of his public persona for years. His bombastic, confrontational, and controversial tweets shocked the political world when he ran for president and after he took office.
But Trump’s tweets represent just one slice of his overall approach to social media. Let’s dive deeper into analyzing Donald Trump’s behavior on Twitter during his presidency and beyond.
Statistics on Trump’s Tweets
Some key metrics on Trump’s activity on the platform:
- Over 59,000 tweets sent from his account during presidency
- Averaged over 18 tweets per day while president; most prolific Twitter user ever in office
- Follower count grew from 19 million to 89 million during presidency
- Generated over 150 million likes and 40 million retweets as president
- Most active time of day tweeting was early morning between 6-10am
Clearly Trump took full advantage of Twitter’s reach and potency for communicating directly to his supporters as president. He tweeted constantly and his following exploded. But the nature of his nonstop tweeting stirred major controversy.
Aggressive Rhetoric and Spreading Misinformation
Donald Trump used Twitter mainly for attacking opponents, lambasting perceived enemies, and spreading numerous false claims and conspiracy theories. Examples of his controversial rhetoric:
- Spreading lies about 2020 election results, riling up anger in his base
- Attacking Hillary Clinton, Biden, Obama, and other top Democrats with derogatory nicknames
- Vilifying mainstream media like “fake news CNN” as the “enemy of the people”
- Sowing distrust of mail-in voting and falsely claiming rampant fraud
- Downplaying dangers of COVID-19, criticizing public health advice
- Sharing misleading claims about immigrants, Muslims, Black Lives Matter protesters
- Promoting fringe conspiracy theories like QAnon that fed his narrative
This inflammatory, false information helped further divide the nation during an already polarized time. But Trump seemed unconcerned about the consequences of his tweets.
Impulsiveness and Recklessness
Donald Trump’s supporters saw his unrestrained tweets as “saying it like it is” and appreciated his directness. However, critics saw the tweets as symptoms of dangerous impulsiveness and instability unsuited for the presidency.
Examples showing Trump’s impulsive nature on Twitter:
- Attacking foreign leaders, risking geopolitical tensions
- Announcing major policies or staff shakeups without warning
- Firing officials at odd hours based on frustrations vented on Twitter
- Sudden declarations of things like the transgender military ban, jeopardizing ongoing policy
- Typos, random capitalizations, incomplete fragmented sentences
- Deleting and reposting tweets after initial angry responses
These actions projected an image of Trump recklessly tweeting his gut reactions without foresight or filter. The possibility of an inflammatory tweet destabilizing the economy or touching off an international incident was seen as highly troubling.
Circumventing Traditional Communication Norms
Previous presidents communicated with the public through carefully crafted policy speeches, press releases, and news conferences that filtered their message through staff and the media.
But Donald Trump used Twitter to directly speak his mind to tens of millions of followers with no gatekeepers. This allowed an unprecedented window into a president’s thinking, but upended standard protocols for etiquette and discretion.
Ways Trump departed from presidential norms:
- Announcing firings and policy changes directly without staff input
- Trash talking and lobbing petty insults at critics and opponents
- Divulging confidential or classified information
- Promoting commercial products and businesses owned by family and friends
- Alleging criminal conduct by opponents without citing evidence
- Attacking integrity of judges who ruled against policies
This undiplomatic, norm-shattering use of Twitter by a sitting president was wholly alien to history. Trump effectively used the platform as a weapon against checks on his power and preference for total self-expression.
Bypassing Mainstream Media
Past presidents were heavily dependent on media outlets to disseminate their messages and shape coverage of their administration. Donald Trump utilized Twitter to cut out the media middleman and speak directly to his base.
Trump exploited this direct line of communication to:
- Rally supporters and influence public opinion with his narrative
- Scoop or preempt forthcoming media stories to control narrative
- Label virtually all negative coverage as “fake news”
- Discredit and undermine legitimacy of major news outlets
- Drive media coverage by tweeting controversial statements early in day
This allowed Trump an extraordinary ability to craft his own image and battle reports or investigations painting him in a negative light. The media became almost powerless in countering Trump’s media-bashing social media megaphone.
Permanent Impact on Presidency
Donald Trump fundamentally changed the institution of the presidency through his use of Twitter as a direct communication channel. Future presidents can build on this strategy, so the impacts will likely be long lasting:
- Set new norm of presidents tweeting thoughts directly without staff review
- Social media now prime venue for presidents to speak to public
- Public has grown accustomed to expect candid thoughts from presidents via Twitter
- Tweets seen as “official statements” of administration policy
- Courts citing Trump tweets as evidence in immigration, travel ban cases
- Congress and media forced to monitor and react in real-time to presidential tweets
The pressure will now exist for both parties’ presidents to utilize social media engagement pioneered by Donald Trump. But few may choose to tweet with the same chaotic abandon that defined Trump’s unprecedentedly verbose and adversarial style.
Donald Trump leveraged Twitter’s immense power like no politician before to bolster his rise to the presidency and domination of the news cycle during his four years in office. His barrage of provocative tweets stunned the political establishment and transfixed media attention even amid major events and crises.
While Trump amplified disinformation and falsehoods on the platform, he also dismantled communication barriers between presidents and ordinary Americans. His permanent shattering of norms will reshape the presidency itself for the social media age. But the chaos and division sown by his aggressive, impetuous tweets may deter future presidents from fully embracing the double-edged sword of direct mass communication Trump so relished wielding.
Bump, Philip. How Donald Trump took advantage of Twitter’s biggest weakness. Vox, 2018.
Kessler, Glenn et al. President Trump has made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims. Washington Post, 2019.
Ott, Brian L. The age of Twitter: Donald J. Trump and the politics of debasement. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 2017.
Stroppa, Daniel. Donald Trump’s Use of Social Media Is Reshaping the Presidency. Duke Political Review, 2019.
Trump Twitter Archive, http://www.trumptwitterarchive.com/
Wells, Georgia et al. How Trump Reshaped the Presidency in Over 11,000 Tweets. New York Times, 2019.
Hi y’all, I’m Caroline Webster, your proud Texan source for everything related to our 45th president, Donald Trump, and the GOP.
Along with my husband, Bill, I run Trump Scoop, born out of our ranch in the Lone Star State, offering insightful and unbiased commentary on conservative politics.
With a degree in Political Science and years immersed in local politics, my aim is to keep our readers informed and connected.
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