We found that only Republicans were significantly influenced by the scandal coverage or lack thereof. Those who saw comparatively more Trump-Russia stories rated his job performance 7.6 percent lower than Republicans who did not read those stories, and rated their positive emotions toward him (such as pride, enthusiasm, and hope) 10.9 percent lower than those kept in the dark. Democrats had non-statistically significant reactions. Republicans did not change their attitudes toward the media, and our results did not change based on whether they clicked on the stories.
In other words, simply changing the balance of scandal headlines that they saw was enough to change Republicans’ attitudes toward Trump. Exposure to sustained coverage of a Trump scandal had detectable, negative effects strong enough to overcome Republicans’ partisanship.
This hardly means that Republicans will abandon Trump any time soon. His approval with Republicans is steady and typical of an average GOP president. As with political ads, intense media events like scandals probably have effects that decay quickly, as people revert to their usual partisanship.