A History of President Trump’s Relationship with Nielsen Ratings (Part 2)

DISCLAIMER: This article has nothing to do with the president's political views or actions. The purpose of this piece is to focus on the way he has used Nielsen ratings and whether his usage was correct or incorrect. Click here to read the original article.

Donald John Trump (center). Photo Credit: Flickr

While not the first president to join the social networking service, former Celebrity Apprentice host Donald Trump has infamously used Twitter to demean his naysayers and uplift his well-wishers with a sea of exclamation marks and hashtags. One particular topic that the 45th president has latched onto is the subject of Nielsen ratings. While there is no shortage of Trump tweets discussing the ins-and-outs of this audience measurement system, it may be difficult for those not familiar with television ratings to figure out if The Donald is using the data correctly. Pictured below are just a few instances where Trump has dished out an attack based on Nielsen ratings and if his statements are factual or a work of fiction.

Exhibit A: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

After comedian Samantha Bee hurled obscenities towards Ivanka Trump on her TBS series, President Trump took to Twitter to defend his daughter while simultaneously calling for Bee to be fired from her "low ratings show". Likely furious from Roseanne being removed from her ABC sitcom for racist tweets, Trump mentions that there is a double standard when it comes to how conservatives and liberals are treated. For its fourth season, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee has averaged an incredibly modest 0.2 rating in the key 18-49 demographic. Although the late-night program has already secured a fifth season renewal, even the most devoted fans cannot pretend that it's a solid performer. Despite the fact that online clips of the program take in millions of views on YouTube, the amount of people tuning in for a television broadcast of Full Frontal are few and far between. Just like Trump pointed out, its numbers leave much to be desired

Did Trump Use Ratings Correctly?: YES

Exhibit B: July Democratic Debate

Following the first Democratic debate, the 45th president logged into his Twitter account and penned a disparaging remark aimed at the "low ratings" that the broadcast produced. In reality, Trump's assertion could not be further from the truth. The CNN telecast of the debate turned in a hefty 1.65 rating in the 18-49 demo with nearly 9 million viewers. A quick scan of a daily ratings report in 2020 demonstrates that most offerings don't even come close to pulling numbers that high. On top of that, Hannity (a show he has praised for its great ratings), garnered a measly 0.34 rating with 4.3 million viewers for a broadcast on January 30, 2020. While still respectable for today's standards, Trump uplifting such low ratings while attacking the much stronger Democratic debate conveys he may be a touch biased in this scenario.

Did Trump Use Ratings Correctly?: NO

Exhibit C: Roseanne/Will & Grace

In this set of September 2019 tweets, Trump takes aim at Will & Grace actress Debra Messing for allegedly being a racist. Once again, the president calls out the more liberal broadcast networks for holding conservatives to a different standard. He uses his friend & supporter Roseanne Barr to back up his claim since she was discharged from the "much higher rated" Roseanne revival while Messing remains employed despite being accused of similar behavior. While he has been under fire for telling lies and twisting facts in the past, Trump could not have been more accurate with this statement. As a testament to its popularity, Barr's series was the most-viewed television program in 2018. The eight-episode revival of Roseanne premiered to a monstrous 5.2 rating and averaged a staggering 3.5 in the 18-49 demographic. In sharp contrast, the third season of the Will & Grace revival is currently averaging a pitiful 0.5 rating. Even at its highest (a 3.0 rating for its 2016 premiere), the Messing series paled in comparison to the sheer magnitude of Barr's Nielsen numbers.

Did Trump Use Ratings Correctly?: YES

Exhibit D: CNN & Don Lemon

CNN's Don Lemon became the target of a verbal onslaught in a late January tweet by the commander-in-chief. In the incredibly brief observation, the president insulted Lemon's intelligence and ability to conjure up Nielsens. For the most part, it does seem like this comment holds weight. The cable ratings for the same evening that the tweet was fired off illustrates that the programs on Fox News (a network Trump has lauded for its high ratings) comfortably performed higher than those on CNN. On that particular day, multiple Fox News programs made up the top 25 highest-rated shows while the CNN airings missed the threshold. Even if these ratings generally fluctuate depending on the topic discussed, it's clear that the president is not too far from the truth with his "terrible ratings" proclamation.

Did Trump Use Ratings Correctly?: Somewhat

Given the fact that Trump hosted a reality series on NBC for over a decade and has made cameos on many programs from the peacock network's lineup, it's safe to say that he understands the Nielsen system more than the common individual. Nonetheless, he may not realize that ratings have declined substantially since he left The Celebrity Apprentice in 2015 to secure a spot in the Oval Office. Because of this, numbers that may seem low to him are simply average or even solid given how far viewership has declined as a whole. Ultimately, expect Trump's Nielsen-based tweets to hold at least some truth (even if he does use them to back up already established biases). 

What did you think of this article? Do you believe Trump has an understanding of Nielsen ratings? Sound off in the comments below.

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