Examining the post-Trump ratings slump


Tyler Letcher

Staff Writer Tyler Letcher examines the sharp drop in ratings that networks like CNN and MSNBC have seen since the departure of Former President Donald Trump.

Ratings – they’re what we all strive for. Whether it’s your boss giving you your quarterly status report, or seeing that your favorite politician is getting more popular with the general consensus, we know that these polls mean a lot when it comes to results – and news outlets are no different. But since the departure of President Trump from the White House, these ratings have, surprisingly, plummeted. But, with so much to cover going on in our world, Trump or not, why have media outlets been hit so hard by this change in the political zeitgeist?

One of the outlets hit the hardest by Trump’s departure has been CNN. They have lost 36% of their primetime viewers since Biden’s inauguration, as reported by Nielsen Media Research[1], but they aren’t the only ones suffering.

Even Fox News, the channel of choice for conservative pundits and Trump supporters, has seen its ratings slump as well, even though its hosts have found plenty to touch upon with a new administration they disagree with. Their ratings have dropped 17% between 2020 and 2021, and, even though this decrease is not as severe as that of other networks, this shows that everyone is susceptible to this post-Trump ratings slump.

And this is, in essence, due to the end of the Trump era, which saw scandal after scandal, each of which were eaten up by the general populace after being dished out by the media. But in all honesty, as much as the media has dished out these past four years, they need to realize that now is a transition period.

While channels such as MSNBC and CNN used to be focused on scandals and stories about how Trump and his cronies were the “antichrists”, they now need to really focus on the real, factual, issues at hand. Fox News, on the other hand, needs to stop worshiping or demonizing people, and focus, as well, on the issues.

All platforms really need to adjust right now. But why was the Trump era so gripping on the media – and why can’t we seem to get back to normalcy, as we used to do whenever a president left the White House?

The answers are simpler than you’d think. First of all, Trump isn’t purely a politician; he was also a major real-estate developer, billionaire, and television host.  Whether or not he would have ever ran for office would be irrelevant as to whether or not he would be talked about in our culture and in the media. So despite the fact that he had a political career, he will be talked about for political reasons, but also due to the fact that he is in the general zeitgeist as a celebrity.

Second of all, the Trump presidency did something with the media that only a handful of presidents had done before him: demonizing the media and politicizing facts. Richard Nixon is a great example of this; even after he left office, the media was constantly on him. Not just for his scandals, but also for his historical treatment of the media, and his view of how “journalists are the enemy”. Trump seems to carry on this legacy, and the fact being that he was a celebrity in the first place only furthers matters.

No matter what, Trump will stay in the spotlight for years (and even decades) to come. But for news media to truly stick to its roots, it needs to move on to active issues and keep its viewers close.