Modern Day Presidential?

December 5, 2017

By: Craig Kafura, Research Associate; Dina Smeltz, Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy

Americans Don’t See Twitter as an Effective Foreign Policy Communication Tool

President Trump's recent retweets of anti-Muslim videos has drawn attention to his reliance on social media to amplify his foreign policy views. While the president believes that his use of social media is "modern day presidential" and that “only the Fake News Media and Trump enemies” want him to stop using these platforms, the 2017 Chicago Council Survey shows that Americans do not consider Twitter or other social media an effective vehicle for presidential communication on foreign policy.

Most Approaches Seen as Effective—Except Twitter

In contrast to other means of Presidential communication, a minority of Americans say that using Twitter or social media is a very or somewhat effective means of communicating US foreign policy to domestic and international publics. More Americans say it is not very effective (24%) or not effective at all (42%). Republicans (44%) are more positive than Democrats (26%) about the effectiveness of Twitter, but it remains a minority viewpoint among the party’s supporters.

A majority of core Trump supporters—those Americans with a very favorable view of President Trump—say that Twitter or social media is effective (60%). In fact, only among core Trump supporters is Twitter not the lowest-rated method: their least-preferred method for communicating foreign policy is through press conferences and interviews.

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These findings echo other recent surveys. In an August 8-12 survey by Marist College, 72 percent of Americans said they find Donald Trump's communication through Twitter to be “reckless and distracting.” A September 14-18 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found two in three Americans (66%) disapprove of the way the president uses Twitter to communicate with the American people. And in an October 5-10 Quinnipiac University poll, seven in ten Americans (70%) and a majority of Republicans (53%) said the president should stop tweeting from his personal account.

Americans are most likely to view personal presidential face-to-face communication as very effective, such as meeting with world leaders overseas, attending world summits like the G20 or UN General Assembly, delivering major speeches and addresses, or holding press conferences or interviews with reporters. While a majority see appointing special envoys or ambassadors as effective, fewer see this as a very effective method.

A Partisan War with the Media?

During the Trump administration’s first year in office, the White House has had a hostile relationship with the news media. Once-regular State Department briefings have become rare events, President Trump himself frequently criticizes media reports as “fake news,” and at one point the White House stopped televising its own press conferences. This distrust of the media is echoed among Trump’s base. Core Trump supporters (18%) and Republicans (20%) are notably less likely than Democrats (35%) to see press conferences or interviews with reporters as very effective means of communication. Republicans and core Trump supporters also distrust the media more generally: only 18 percent of core Trump supporters and 20 percent of Republicans overall express confidence in the ability of media leaders to shape policies that benefit the United States, compared to 58 percent among Democrats and 38 percent of the overall public.


About the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. We convene leading global voices and conduct independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. Ranked No. 1 Think Tank to Watch worldwide, the Council on Global Affairs is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business and governments engage the world. Learn more at and follow @ChicagoCouncil.

About the Chicago Council Survey

The analysis in this report is based on data from the 2017 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy. The 2017 Chicago Council Survey was conducted by GfK Custom Research using their large-scale, probability-based, nationwide online research panel between June 27 and July 19, 2017 among a representative weighted national sample of 2,020 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. This panel is the largest national sampling frame from which fully representative samples can be generated to produce statistically valid inferences for study populations. The margin of error for the full sample is ±2.4 percentage points.

Partisan identification is based on respondents’ answer to a standard partisan self-identification question: “Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?”

Core Trump supporters are identified as those respondents who answered “very favorable” to the question: “Do you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable view of the following world leaders: US President Donald Trump?” This group, 21 percent of the overall sample, self-identify primarily as Republicans (62%), but also includes a third that identify as Independents (31%), and a handful of Democrats (5%).

The 2017 Chicago Council Survey is made possible by the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Korea Foundation, the Charles Koch Institute, and the personal support of Lester Crown and the Crown family.

Modern Day Presidential?

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