Presidential Office Hours: Donald Trump’s Schedule Vs. FDR Through Obama

…A Hazy Shade of Winter…

You know the drill. Headline first. Then a march through the methodology. If you want single-serving factoids, go to, well, pretty much anywhere else on the Internet.

Donald Trump arrives in the office almost an hour later than any President since 1933. His average arrival time is 10:42 am for his Presidency, and 11:18 a.m. for 2018. He spends the least amount of time in the office as well, though under 8 hours of office time is a trait shared with 5 of the past 13 presidents.

This is based on an analysis of daily presidential calendars from March 4, 1933 through December 31, 2018, and covered 83,229  pages of records.

View Methodology   View Data

So to answer the several dozen questions we’ve received on this topic: you’re not imagining it. But, like all things in life, it’s not so cut and dry.

Hang onto your hopes my friend.

So this question has been asked a few times. But who on earth has time to rummage through a dozen presidential libraries? Apparently, we do.

At the Fact Cave, one of our more popular features is Donald Trump’s daily schedule. We’ve beefed it up of late. You can find monthly stats embedded, miles traveled, record counts, time on camera. Look for the plus sign in the Month bar.

But no good deed goes unpunished. We’ve been asked whether it appeared that Donald Trump was coming to the office later in the day, particularly after his busy election season. We did a quick check. But it’s the holiday season in D.C, which like August, tends to be a “what, me work?” kind of month, even for Presidents, and certainly in D.C., whether or not it’s shut down.

But the question started taking a life of its own on December 13th…

The volume of questions picked up. So we started digging in and, lo and behold, it looked like there were some interesting patterns in Trump’s schedule. But without a cohort, there’s no way to tell if it was a normal pattern. Which leads to our favorite word: cohort.

It’s bound to be a better ride.

So, much like how Factba.se started, we sometimes jump first, then find out if there’s water in the pool. So, really, how many pages could a Presidential schedule be?

83,229 pages since Roosevelt, in a dozen different presidential libraries. 67,173 of those pages scans of typewritten logs. 13,905 of them handwritten (in fairness to LBJ, some were typed… but not a lot).

Sure. We were so glad we decided to try this. Around the holidays. Shoot me.

Luckily, it’s good to be friends with an AI that has read about 1.2 million pages of government PDFs in her life. Especially when you helped program her. And pay her AWS bills. So really, other than some truly awful scans, we could pull the vast majority of the data.

…Drinking my vodka…

Seriously? No More Simon & Garfunkel Quotes

You want the blog post, or do you just want to complain about my wandering non sequiturs? Actually, I was thinking of The Bangles version from 1987 (though they played it live as early as 1983). Though nothing but love to Simon & Garfunkel.

On with it…

Data Collection

We were able to locate the schedule of nearly every President from Roosevelt forward, or enough portions to be statistically valid. Only the George H.W. Bush Library doesn’t have either the Daily Guidance or the Daily Diary available online. We had to take what we could get from the National Archives. The George W. Bush Library has the schedule for 338 of his 2,922 days… not ideal, but enough for a good statistical sample. We’re noticing a familial pattern here on data availability.

The Pare Lorenz Center at the FDR Presidential Library and the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum had blessedly recreated the daily schedule in text, sparing us spelunking via OCR to get the data. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum was a hot mess, but we pieced together PDFs for 835 of his 1,036 days as President. And the administration of Barack Obama earns a frown for only having 2,384 of the 2,922 days up. We are confident the Internet existed in 2009. Come on, people.

Because this was a lot, we were going for a statistically valid sample, not perfection (we made that mistake initially and burned two days… story for another time). So we unleashed Margaret. For 31,348 days since March 4, 1933, we had data on 26,564 of them. We ended up eliminating some days for vacation (no start or end appointments), others because the data was missing, and some if Margaret just said “hey, I’m not sure about this day.” We were working with half-century old documents in some cases.

In the end, we ended up with 20,905 days of schedules. That works out to 77.49% of the days with data, or 66.69% of the whole. I think my statistics professor would say that’s a valid sample.

Not All Schedules Are Created Equal

Click to enlarge

As with any historical data, you work with what you have. So it’s important to understand the two different types.

Daily Guidance
The “Daily Guidance” or “Daily Schedule“. This is what we have for Trump, Obama and Clinton, and it appears to be the level of depth for what we have for Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy in that it’s very high level and doesn’t tend to go into breakfasts, dinners and 3-5 minute meetings. It’s the high-level items. For Clinton/Obama/Trump, this is the schedule published to the members of the media. This will sometimes include appointments that were canceled… not often, but it does happen. It also reflects what was scheduled… not the time things actually occurred.

And perhaps most important. It is intended for public consumption at the time it was issued.

Daily Diary
The “Daily Diary” we have for nearly everyone else is the log kept by the Presidential Office of Appointments and Scheduling. It is an exact record of what actually happened. In addition, since it is meant for posterity, and can be redacted for security, it is a far more detailed account of the day and will include things that may not have been in the public schedule. Also, these usually aren’t released for a couple of decades, if at all.

The level of detail can also vary. Roosevelt’s daily schedule includes notes from his stenographer, the White House usher, and his personal appointment diary. Reagan’s includes his personal diary entries as well as the official log.

What does this mean? When looking at the office hours, some entries are more detailed, and thus cover more time. Truman’s diary doesn’t have a lot of records once he “left the office,” so to speak, where Roosevelt’s details who he drank and smoked with at midnight. The chart above groups the hours by who had what type of data available.

More details in the methodology at the bottom.

Click to enlarge

Okay, What Did You Find?

First, we were able to validate what our readers had emailed and tweeted about. Trump starts his day later in the office than any other President since 1933. That’s definitive, regardless of schedule type. For his presidency, his average first scheduled appointment is 10:42 a.m. This is 47 minutes later than the next closest average start time, which belongs to Harry Truman.

With 2018 wrapping up, his yearly average start time for 2018 is now 11:18 a.m. This is the latest average yearly start time since 1933, and 1 hour, 1 minute later than the runner-up, 1948 (Truman). No other president had a year where their first public appointment started after 11 a.m.

Of interest: for those presidents elected to their first term (FDR, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush… no data for either Bush 41 or Obama), most were consistent in arrival time between years, ranging from 19 minutes earlier between the first two years (FDR) to 32 minutes later (Carter… from 6:38 a.m. average time to 7:10 a.m.). Trump’s first public appointment moved 74 minutes, from 10:04 a.m. in 2017 to 11:18 a.m. in 2018. No one else had a shift that large.

Trump also has the shortest day, in terms of the time between his first and last appointments. His average scheduled time, as published, is 6 hours, 26 minutes. This is less than half the average time logged by George H. W. Bush (see below), Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter, who had a more detailed schedule. But even within the sub-cohort, it was the least amount of scheduled time, on average, followed closely by Harry Truman.

George H. W. Studmuffin

U.S. President-elect George H.W. Bush fishes in Florida three days after election in 1988. (Editorial: Also, this was right before he dove in and kicked the bejesus out of Ocean Master. Bare-handed. Without raising his voice.) REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)

Yes, Bush 41 stands out, but he comes with a large footnote, and not just for his super-sized scheduling.

The Bush 41 Library has not yet gotten around to publishing the entire Daily Diary to the Intertubes yet. It’s the only Presidential library that doesn’t have at least a partial, if not complete, set of schedules. The National Archives happens to have 41 (get it?) very complete schedules for two days in 1990 and 39 in 1991. It’s not enough to do a monthly/yearly, but it at least gives us an idea of his schedule. [Update 12/31 @ 6:55 pm ET. Thank you for the tip on the Web Archive! Now at 414 days for Bush. ]

And the man, in those 41 days, he started between 5 and 6 am on 30 of those days. He’s got one all-nighter in the set of schedules. I’m fairly certain there was a whole section in there where he caught up with Clint Eastwood, got drunk on rye, then proceeded to beat the crap out of Ivan Drago while Eastwood glowered. And he was still up at 5 the next morning for breakfast and phone calls.

Suffice it to say, without any editorializing, day-um.

But also suffice it to say: we were comfortable including it in the overall average only, given it is 41 days. The schedule has a regularity to it missing from all the other schedules. He was a man of routines. But it is still based on 41 days from the National Archives out of his 1,461 days in office. So take the data with appropriate caution. [Update 12/31 @ 6:55 pm ET: now 414 records, revising average start to 7:50 am and average last item at 10:44 p.m., just shy of 15 hours on average per day.]

What About Twitter?

That’s an absolutely fair point. Trump is known to be awake at all hours tweeting on @realDonald Trump. We’ve even included the distribution data so you can see for yourself.

But here’s the thing: is it actually Trump tweeting? We can work off lots of different types of data. In looking at first/last tweets every day for an indication of schedule, it literally spans 24 hours on @realDonaldTrump. Of 710 days checked, on a midnight->midnight basis, 260 of those days had their first tweet between midnight and 5 a.m. (36.6%). If we arbitrarily assume 5 a.m. is a starting point, then the last tweet of the day occurred between 12-5 a.m. 275 times or 38.7% of the time.

But was it him? Or Dan Scavino? Or someone from the social media team? Or the press office?

We have a bot that uses as reference data tweets from when he was the only one on his team using an Android to tweet, and everyone else used an iPhone. Using thousands of those tweets, our model is able to predict, with 91% accuracy, if he tweeted something, or if his staff tweeted something, based on the language, use of hashtags and images, and so forth (hint: he rarely uses hashtags or images, but his staff uses CAPITAL LETTERS in almost equal proportions when using the account).

It’s not bad, but not perfect. But using that as a reference, our bots say 54% of those midnight-5 a.m. tweets are staff. That’s way too high a number to assume it’s Trump thumbing the tweet.

Take a look at the data for yourself and see if you can make better heads or tails of it. But for the purposes of this exercise, until a more detailed calendar is available, we’re leaving Twitter out of this, because if we use @realDonaldTrump as a guide to the beginning or end of the day, we’d have to ask if Trump has ever slept. Ever.

So What Does This All Mean?

We can pretty safely say he’s not a morning person, at least as far as his official calendar goes. And we no more think Trump leaves the office at 5:18 p.m. with nary a thought about his job than we think three-hour gaps in the middle George H.W. Bush’s schedule meant he was refining his knife-fighting skills.

What we can say, pretty definitively, is his official calendar starts later than any time since 1933 by a wide margin. His last meeting isn’t the earliest… that belongs to Eisenhower (3:47 p.m.). But what we basically did is answer the question: is he getting to the office later? The answer: yes.

Also, we now regret never watching Bush 41 arm wrestle Stallone.

So now, the data, methodology, and notes.

We have the data in a handy Google Sheet .  It includes the monthly and yearly data for each President and their schedule, along with the original raw data. It also includes the twitter data referenced above. A summary is below.

Data

President1st MtgLast Mtg# DaysDuration
FDR8:49 AM8:29 PM387311:40:00
Truman9:55 AM4:38 PM20036:43:00
Ike8:35 AM3:47 PM23787:12:00
JFK9:29 AM4:45 PM5287:16:00
LBJ9:03 AM7:54 PM85210:51:00
Nixon8:57 AM8:19 PM120111:22:00
Ford8:02 AM9:34 PM78713:32:00
Carter7:00 AM8:21 PM145513:21:00
Reagan8:41 AM8:47 PM244612:06:00
Bush 415:47 AM9:41 PM4115:54:00
Clinton8:19 AM6:23 PM251110:04:00
Bush 437:48 AM5:26 PM3249:38:00
Obama9:42 AM4:54 PM15507:12:00
Trump10:42 AM5:08 PM5776:26:00

View or Download All the Data in a Google Sheet

Methodology

 

  • Time Zones. All times are adjusted to local time, based on where the President was at that particular time, so first and last meetings are based on where the president was on that day/time vs. Eastern time.
  • Missing / Incomplete Data.
    • Days with no public schedule or diary, either due to redaction or vacation where no data was available, were excluded from the calculations.
    • In cases where the Factba.se platform could not discern a time or date automatically with a high degree of accuracy, the day in question was excluded from the calculation. The percent coverage is noted below.
  • 11:59 pm. For simplification, any day that ended after 11:59 pm was rounded to 11:59 pm in the evening. So if the last item on the schedule was 1:15 am, it was calculated at 11:59 pm for the purposes of the analysis.
  • Weekends. For Donald Trump, M-F calculations are used, but both M-F and full 7-day averages are available on the Trump 45 Tab. All other Presidents were analyzed using all days, including weekends and holidays.

Sources

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Harry S. Truman
    • Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum
    • Presidency: 2,840 days; In Analysis: 2,003 days (70.53%)
    • Type: Daily Schedule (Public Meetings)
    • Note: The schedule was partial and filled in based on news reports by the Library. As a result, a number of days have records that just list an evening speech. These were filtered out as they were not part of the official record.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
    • LBJ Presidential Library
    • Presidency: 1,886 days; In Analysis: 852 days (45.17%)
    • Type: Daily Diary (Detailed)
    • Note: The majority of this schedule was handwritten. Most days not included were due to inaccurate data from the conversion of 50-year-old cursive to text.
  • Richard M. Nixon
  • Gerald Ford
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Ronald Reagan
  • George H. W. Bush
    • Not available on the George H.W. Bush Library Center online archives. (Boo!)
    • Limited data used from the National Archives (41 records)
    • Miller Center has 373 records they removed, but still available on the Wayback Machine
    • Presidency: 1,461 days; In Analysis: 414 days (28.34%)
    • Type: Daily Diary (Detailed)
    • Note: The small sample size means this should be used as a guide, or approximation.
  • Bill Clinton
    • Clinton Digital Library
    • Presidency: 2,922 days; In Analysis: 2,511 days (85.93%)
    • Type: Daily Schedule (Public Meetings)
  • George W. Bush
    • George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
    • Presidency: 2,922 days; In Analysis: 324 days (11.09%)
    • Type: Daily Diary (Detailed)
    • Note: Only 338 days total were made public so far by the George W. Bush Presidential Library. A FOIA request for the records has been filed, with an estimated completion of January 2021 (for real).
  • Barack Obama
    • The White House: President Barack Obama Archive
    • Presidency: 2,922 days; In Analysis: 1,550 days (53.05%)
    • Type: Daily Schedule (Public Meetings)
    • Note: The Obama White House did not start publishing his daily schedule until July, 2010. In addition, there are numerous gaps in the schedule on their public blog.
  • Donald Trump
    • Factba.se, as compiled from the White House Press Office Daily Guidance emails, Pool Reports, and @POTUS_Schedule on Twitter
    • Presidency: 710 days; In Analysis: 583 days (82.11%)
    • Type: Daily Schedule (Public Meetings)
  • Donald Trump (Tweets)

 

Update 1/2/19

Happy New Year! By request, here’s the same data (using the 7-day per week vs M-F) by month just for Donald Trump.

Click to enlarge

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