Was Trump Benefiting From Being Out of the News?

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Attention is back on Donald Trump. Credit…Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

Donald J. Trump appears to be a stronger candidate than he was four years ago, polling suggests, and not just because a notable number of voters look back on his presidency as a time of relative peace and prosperity.

It’s also because his political liabilities, like his penchant to offend and his legal woes, don’t dominate the news the way they once did.

In the last New York Times/Siena College poll, only 38 percent of voters said they’d been offended by Mr. Trump “recently,” even as more than 70 percent said they had been offended by him at some point.

We didn’t ask a question like this back in 2016 or 2020 for comparison (unfortunately), but my subjective thumb-in-the-wind gauge says that, if we had, more voters would have said yes to the “recently offended” question. Mr. Trump’s most outrageous comments just don’t dominate the news cycle the way they did four to eight years ago.

Similarly, many voters seem to be tuning out his myriad legal challenges. A majority of voters said they thought he had committed federal crimes, but only 27 percent of registered voters in the last Times/Siena poll said they were paying “a lot of attention” to the news about the legal cases against him. That’s much lower than the 39 percent back in October 2019 who said they were paying a lot of attention to the Trump-Ukraine controversy (the “perfect” phone call).

It seems plausible that the lack of attention paid to Mr. Trump contributed to his early strength in the polling. Voters generally still don’t like him — in fact, his favorability rating is unchanged from our 2020 polling. But his liabilities just aren’t in the forefront of people’s minds, making it easier for the “double haters” — those who tell pollsters they dislike both candidates — to back him over President Biden.

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