A recent study by Jessica Myrick, associate professor of media studies at Penn State’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, examined how President Donald Trump’s fondness for fast food may affect the public’s perception of fast food and the likelihood that some people might just follow his diet.
The study, recently published in the journal Appetite, found that people who pay more attention to media coverage about Trump’s diet are more likely to view fast food as a socially acceptable meal option. They also are more likely to eat fast food in the near future, according to the study.
“When you aggregate those effects across the entire U.S. population, these data suggest there could be harm caused to public health by encouraging many Americans to eat fast food,” Myrick said.
According to the researchers, Trump is not the first president whose eating habits have made headlines. Former President Bill Clinton also had a penchant for fast food before undergoing quadruple bypass surgery in 2004 and later becoming vegan. Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama promoted healthy eating and started a vegetable garden on the White House grounds.
Myrick surveyed more than 1,000 Americans in a nationally representative survey. It compared the respondents’ attention to media—including news stories about Trump’s eating habits—with respondents’ “parasocial relationship” with the president. Parasocial relationships are between two people who don’t know each other.
After analyzing the data, Myrick found that attention to media about Trump’s reported diet was a stronger predictor of intentions to eat fast food than any demographic factor, including education level, race, age, gender or income.
“The results also show that for both Republicans and Democrats, greater attention to media coverage of Trump’s diet was related to more positive attitudes toward fast food,” Myrick said. “However, for Republicans, this relationship was nearly twice as strong, meaning that as attention to media coverage of Trump’s diet increases, Republicans are quicker to report positive attitudes toward fast food than are Democrats.”