Trudeau v. Trump: a matter of perspective?

Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau – not as different as you may think. Photo: (c) CBC

Donald J. Trump is a buffoon, widely believed to be the worst president in US history. Justin Trudeau is a modern feminist sex symbol beloved by his adoring nation – and coveted by most western nations. And yet, when we look at their actual job approval numbers, the two national leaders are not as far apart as we might expect.

According to Gallup, Donald Trump has averaged about 40% job approval since taking office in January of this year. Over that period, his approval has averaged higher than 50% in 17 states, lower than 40% in 17 states and between 4-49% in 16 states polled. Gallup's most recent poll puts Trump's approval at 38%.

Donald J. Trump avg job approval since inauguration: 40%

Justin Trudeau job approval midway through the same period: 42%

In Canada, Forum Research pegged Justin Trudeau's job approval at 42% in April – about the midpoint of the period Gallup measured for Trump. That's a low point in Trudeau's approval, for sure. It has since rebounded in a June poll by Forum to 48%. Other pollsters have different numbers.

My point is that, quantitatively, the gap in approval between the two national leaders is not as large as it would appear to be if you judged the men solely on their media coverage. This demonstrates the power of narrative – which Trudeau has mastered and Trump has grotesquely fumbled.

I would also suggest that Canadians, and likely other foreigners, have a skewed perspective of Trump and his popularity. Outside of Fox News Network and its often laughably cartoonish approach to news, there are few voices emerging in American media that don't begin their commentary with an assumption that Trump is a bumbling, ineffectual idiot at best, evil incarnate at worst.

Yet, when I talk to Americans – I was recently on a VIA Rail train for four days, alongside a platoon of middle-aged and senior-citizen US tourists – they present a much different perspective on the US president. Almost all of them support most of his policy objectives and bemoan the rough ride he's getting in Congress.

Is Trump a buffoon? I think so. Is he a good president? Not yet. Is he universally detested in the US? Absolutely not. Do millions of Americans still support Trump and his agenda? Yes.

Is Trudeau popular at home? Yes. Is he universally loved in Canada? No.

But perceptions of the two men differ far more than the data would support. And that, my friends, is largely down to narrative and the ability to effectively communicate through mass media. Is mass media still relevant in 2017? The jury's still out on that one.

Share Button