In card games, trumping refers to playing a higher-value card of the same suit as your opponent’s. In politics, it can mean outdoing rivals by staging a more attention-grabbing event. Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson took this to a new level by launching an exclusive interview on social network X (formerly Twitter) at the same time as the first Republican Primary Debate on Fox News, capturing the media’s attention.
But which event truly resonated with the audience, captivating their engagement?
A Numbers Mess
Donald Trump claimed victory and boasted about the record-breaking viewership of an interview with over 261 million views. Newsweek, however, reported the true view count as of August 30th was around 21.7 million, only 10% of Trump’s claim. The definition of a video view on X (when a user watches for at least 2 seconds and has at least 50% of the video player in view) adds complexity to the situation.
The GOP debate on Fox News had an average of 12.8 million viewers, falling short of the 2016 GOP debates, which averaged 15.5 million viewers when Donald Trump first entered politics. However, comparing debate viewership to accumulating interview figures isn’t straightforward due to the way the metrics are measured.
With different ways to measure the same metric (viewership) across different platforms and timeframes, determining whether there is a clear winner becomes difficult.
Emotional Impact Score as a metric for Impression Quality
Mediaprobe advocates for a unique approach to assessing media content by measuring emotional engagement using galvanic skin response (GSR). GSR provides an objective and reliable metric to quantify emotions in media and advertising, with strong predictive capabilities and consistent validity. Mediaprobe’s GSR-based measurement allows comparison of content across platforms and media types, enabling a comprehensive analysis of effectiveness.
We conducted a meticulous study measuring the audience’s emotional engagement with the GOP debate on Fox News and Trump’s interview on X. Using our in-home panel across the United States, we ensured a comparable sample and collected GSR data through our proprietary sensor. The data was analyzed to generate the Emotional Impact Score (EIS), providing a unique metric for audience engagement. Our mobile app also allowed viewers to provide qualitative insights on specific moments of the content.
Trump Won the Engagement Battle
Using EIS to compare the two contents, Trump’s interview with Tucker Carlson outscored the GOP Debate by 19% (36% above the MP US TV Norm) and showed higher audience engagement throughout. With the interview’s estimated 21 million viewers, it’s evident that Trump and Carlson’s content shines brighter than the GOP Debate on Fox News.
However, the debate was still engaging, scoring 15% higher than Mediaprobe’s US TV Norm. It offered a platform for candidates to showcase why they are the Republican Party’s best choice for the White House.
Political Party Divide
Trump’s interview had a higher engagement level overall, including across major party lines. Surprisingly, Democrats showed even greater engagement, with Tucker Carlson’s content on X receiving 31% more engagement than the GOP Debate. In contrast, Republicans had only 5% higher engagement, while Independents rated the interview 17% higher than the Debate.
This doesn’t mean that Democrats “liked” or “enjoyed” Trump’s interview more than Republicans or the Debate. It means their emotional engagement was higher, even if they disagreed or didn’t like what was said. In fact, they were 40 times more likely to disagree with Trump than with other Republican candidates. Trump’s style and message tend to leave a stronger emotional impression.
This can also be seen in how viewers who identify themselves as Independent, not having a particular affinity with any major, were also more engaged with the interview. Among Independents, Trump’s interview gathered a 15% higher EIS than the GOP Debate, showing that the Former President was able to keep them more engaged with the content.
Overall, Tucker Carlson’s interview with Donald Trump was more engaging than the GOP Primary Debate, indicating that the audience was more engaged with the content. Democrats were exceptionally responsive to Trump’s message, even though they disagreed with it. While the GOP Debate did not perform as well as Trump’s interview, it did have highly impactful content, indicating that the audience was interested in what the candidates had to say.
By combining Mediaprobe’s Emotional Impact Score (EIS) with the viewership data, broadcasters and advertisers alike can better understand how engaged the audience was with the content while watching and how to better value their content properties and media planning ROI.