In recent weeks, President Trump’s image has been improving in the polls. While some have attributed this to approval of his handling of the pandemic or his economic management, new research suggests another factor may be at play: a kind of short-term memory loss when it comes to the president’s past behavior.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that the current slate of polls, which show an uptick in the president’s popularity, may be due to some Americans’ tendency to forget about the president’s negatives—whether it’s his handling of the pandemic, his past statements about immigrants, or his controversial tweets.
The results of the study suggested that Americans in general had experienced a “memory lapse” when it came to the president’s behavior. This means that if someone asked an American if they approved of the president, they would be more likely to say “yes” simply because they had forgotten the negative events of the past.
This “amnesia” may be due to the sheer volume of news stories out there. As the authors of the study note, “With an unchecked flow of news stories on any given day, the news and information about President Trump will eventually fade from conscious memory.”
In other words, the constant barrage of stories about the president’s decisions can lead to a kind of “cognitive fatigue” that makes it difficult for people to keep track of his missteps. As a result, some of the president’s past actions may no longer be top-of-mind for many Americans, and they may be more likely to assess the president more favorably.
It remains to be seen whether this improved image will be due to approval or due to “amnesia.” If the latter is true, it could be a temporary boon for the president’s approval ratings, but it’s important to remember that memories—like approval ratings—are fleeting.