As part of a project I’m working on dealing with how immigration is framed, I had downloaded all tweets from the accounts of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders from November 1, 2015 until November 9, 2016. This time period covered both the Republican and Democratic primaries, their conventions, and the general elections.
Clinton was the most prolific tweeter, tweeting 7,148 times, followed by Cruz at 6,528. Sanders followed with 5,812 tweets, and Trump, who is most closely associated with the medium, tweeted the least at 4,827 tweets. Ted Cruz was the biggest retweeter, and both his and Sander’s tweets decreased after they dropped out of the race.
What were they tweeting about?
I wasn’t about to go through and hand code these tweets, but by using LDA to help create categories, I created search terms for several issues that were popular in the campaign. It’s important to note two things: first, this was all automated. I did not hand code these to remove ambiguous cases or check for alternative definitions of words. Second, tweets can be coded for more than one category; in other words, categories are not mutually exclusive.
And here‘s the results of those searches.
The categories are Benefit Programs (Social Security and Welfare), Childcare/Women’s Health; Controversies; Supreme Court; Crime (includes prison reform and police); Discrimination, Economy, Education (including higher ed), Environment, Foreign Affairs, Get Out the Vote, Gay Rights, Healthcare, Immigration, Polls, Press, Retweets, and Gun Rights.
Foreign Affairs (or FA) is one of the largest categories; however, about 155 of those tweets related to Iran or nuclear issues, while only 108 related to Latin America (this includes tweets that included Mexico). Get out the vote (GOTV) tweets were quite high in the primaries and dropped in the general election. Benefits program was surprisingly low, and even though I have reasons to dislike the lumping of women‘s health and childcare, I did lump them together here. Abortion would also be in this category.
But which candidate tweeted the most about each issue? Using Tableau, I made some charts that break out individual users tweets. The charts below show what percentage each category makes up that user‘s total tweets. In other words, the first chart shows that 3.25% of Bernie’s total tweets were dedicated to childcare, whereas 7.44% of Hillary’s tweets were on this issue.
There are some categories in here that are not surprising- Sanders spent more of his tweets talking about the Economy and Benefits programs than others; Donald Trump spent more time on the Press and Polls than others. I find it interesting that Sanders has such a high percentage of his tweets dedicated to foreign affairs; this may be because I included the word “allies” in the search. If he used allies in the sense of supporters, this distinction wouldn’t show up here. I also find it really interesting how few tweets covered social security and welfare (Medicare/Medicaid was included in the Healthcare topic due to their role in the ACA debate).
Another thing this quick overview misses is how the candidates were talking about things. Yes, they all spoke on crime, but Clinton and Sanders focused on reforming the criminal justice system. Ted Cruz focused on repealing the ACA; Sanders on expanding it.
However, it’s still an interesting overview. Clinton tweeted much more than I expected, Trump, much less.