Aug 8, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Numb to Trump: Data shows drop in scandal interest

Google Trends for <b style="color:#007831; font-weight:900;">"Donald Trump"</b> and <b style="color:#00c46b; font-weight:900;">"indictment"</b>
Note: A value of 100 is the highest popularity while zero means there was not enough measurable data available. Data: Google Trends; Chart: Kira Wang/Axios Visuals

The public's attention to former President Trump's legal drama has declined with each subsequent indictment, according to new data pulled across television, social media and search activity.

Why it matters: Despite the unprecedented criminal charges against a former president, the shock is starting to wear off — for now.

By the numbers: Americans have turned to Google in droves to find information about Trump and the topic of "indictment" with every new case.

  • Searches spiked with all three indictments, but the spikes are getting smaller — indicating slowing interest.
  • Social media interactions with stories about Trump indictments have followed a similar trend to the Google Trends data, according to NewsWhip.

On TV, coverage of Trump's first indictment in April drew a huge spike in viewership, according to Nielsen ratings.

  • Subsequent indictments have drawn fewer viewers, although last week's coverage of Trump's third indictment and arrest drew roughly the same level of viewership as the second indictment in June.

What they're saying: The arrest and arraignment of a former president — along with the usual flurry of angry social media posts and cries of a political witch-hunt — are starting to feel routine, experts say.

  • "The bombast and howling accusations after each charge, the lurid threats and endless victimologies, the mind numbing repetition of it all... is supposed to do just that: numb the mind so that sense making feels impossible and paying attention seems pointless," New York University's Jay Rosen told Axios in an email.
  • "There's a name for it: flooding the zone with crap. It's supposed to exhaust whatever interest we once had in following the news," Rosen added.

What to watch: Indictments are only the beginning. "[T]he audience will come roaring back, I would predict, as soon as major trials are underway and verdicts are close to being rendered," NYU professor Rodney Benson told Axios.

  • A resurgence of interest could be a huge 2024 factor, especially as independents start paying closer attention and weighing their options in the lead-up to the general election, according to Dr. Chris Haynes, associate professor of political science at the University of New Haven.
  • The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Between the lines: On the left, Americans have made up their mind about Trump's questionable behavior and do not expect Republican support to diminish, experts say.

  • Trump supporters and the right-wing media ecosystem are painting the cases as politically motivated, with "whataboutism" arguments comparing Trump's actions to those of Democrats.
  • Trump supporters tuning out bad news, Democratic interest sliding in a "post-victory lap" and general loss in the shock value of another Trump scandal all likely contribute, Haynes told Axios.

Be smart: The media interest trend mirrors campaign finance data, which shows the Trump campaign receiving a smaller bump in donations during his second indictment compared to a monstrous spike in response to his first, as Politico reported.

The big picture: Interest in national news and politics has plummeted in the Biden era, even as Trump's legal drama continues to unfold, per SimilarWeb.

What to watch: A fourth criminal indictment could come in the next few weeks out of Georgia, also related to Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

  • Recent polling shows that roughly half of Republicans say they would not vote for Trump if he is convicted of a felony.
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