Trump Was Losing Twitter Followers Until He Incited a Riot

We tracked his account from the moment he lost the election.

Plummeting Twitter birds wearing red 45 hats.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Nicholas Swanson/Unsplash and Twitter.

Twitter permanently banned President Donald Trump on Friday after he incited the mob that attacked the Capitol and he continued to post tweets that the platform believed would lead to more violence. Trump made his debut on the platform in 2009 with a post promoting an interview on Late Night With David Letterman, and he would go on to send out more than 57,000 tweets over the course of nearly 12 years. Though it was initially used to advertise books and media appearances, the @realDonaldTrump account eventually became Trump’s megaphone of choice for haranguing enemies, keeping his party in line, delivering off-the-cuff rants, spreading disinformation, and even announcing major policy actions. When Trump lost the election, a number of journalists and political commentators rejoiced at the prospect of no longer having to be in thrall to his erratic social media habits.


Curious about how much influence he might continue to wield on the platform, I’ve been keeping a daily tally of his Twitter followers since Nov. 5, when it became evident that Joe Biden was going to win the election. At the time, Trump had about 88.3 million followers.  Here’s a graph showing how his follower count has changed over the last two months:

A line graph showing the ups and downs of Trump's postelection Twitter following.
Based on a daily tally of Trump’s followers. Slate

As you can see, losing the election actually helped Trump gain followers in the immediate aftermath—the jump from Nov. 5 to Nov. 9 represents a leap of about 600,000 followers. He then saw a gradual decline from the end of November until the beginning of January, as his claims that he had actually won the election became more desperate and, it seems for many Twitter users, more tiresome. Between Nov. 13 and Jan. 5, he lost close to 400,000 followers.

The Capitol riot resulted in a spike in followers—a jump of about 214,000 users from his recent low. All in all, Trump gained more than 52,000 followers since the race was called for Biden. It’s worth noting that Trump didn’t have long on the platform to complain about a drop in followers on Jan. 8, as many other conservatives did. That was the day that the platform began removing tens of thousands of accounts that were dedicated to promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory as part of its effort to prevent further violence after the Capitol riot. That evening, Twitter dropped its ban hammer on the president.

Joe Biden, whom I’ve also been tracking, only had around a third of Trump’s following by the time Twitter banned the president. Since winning the election, though, Biden’s following has seen consistent growth. He’s netted more than 9 million followers, for a current following of more than 23.7 million people. While Trump had many more followers than Biden, at no point did he eclipse the Twitter following of the man whose presidency he tried to erase, Barack Obama.