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Much has happened since we last posted about what Twitter can teach us about the US presidential candidates. In the past three weeks, an additional 15 states have participated in electoral contests to help narrow the field of candidates who will ultimately secure the Republican and Democratic party nominations for president.
With so much activity happening offline, we were due for an update of the latest and greatest activity happening online on our beloved Twitter! As with our previous post, we’re putting our Twitter analytics tool, Followerwonk, to work analyzing the top presidential candidates. This includes tracking changes in followership, analyzing conversations and engagement, and other interesting insights we uncover on this journey. You can also follow the data we’re tracking for the current five top-performing candidates* in realtime by visiting their individual Followerwonk analysis report pages:
*Top-performing candidates as measured by their finishing positions in the most recent electoral contests. This list will evolve with the election cycle.
What’s happened since we last checked in?
In our first post, we examined Twitter trends around the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary. Since then, Nevada and South Carolina hosted contests in the second half of February, and most notably, yesterday was the BIG ONE: Super Tuesday.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Super Tuesday, it marks the single biggest day for casting ballots in the 2016 US presidential race until the general election in November. Voters in 12 states cast ballots with a significant number of delegates at stake: 595 for Republicans across 11 contests, and 865 for Democrats across 12 contests.
Now that we’re all caught up, let’s dig in!
Cloudy with a chance of Trump
We wanted to know what the Twitterverse had to say about the candidates during the electoral contests in Nevada and South Carolina. To capture this, we created a series of word clouds representing the most common words associated with tweets and retweets mentioning each candidate during the 48 hours surrounding the contests.
You’ll see that each candidate’s word cloud contains popular words and slogans from their respective campaigns, such as:
- “cruzcrew” for Cruz
- “marcomentum” for Rubio
- “makeamericagreatagain” for Trump
- “imwithher” for Clinton
- “feelthebern” for Sanders
Perhaps most interesting, however, is the one word surfacing in every single word cloud: “Trump.” And while it makes an appearance in each of the five candidate’s word clouds, it’s especially significant in those of his GOP rivals.
What’s in a name?
Given Trump’s broad name recognition, his prevalence may not seem surprising. That is, until you consider that according to a recent Gallup survey, there is one candidate with slightly higher name recognition (Clinton) who did not achieve the same distinction. In addition, the most recent measurement of media coverage per candidate conducted by the FiveThirtyEight blog uncovered that while Trump received 54 percent of the GOP primary media coverage, Clinton received 77 percent of the Democratic primary media coverage.
Furthermore, at this stage in the primaries, both Trump and Clinton are considered the front-runners to win their party’s nominations, according to the latest news analysis from the Chicago Tribune and ABC News, among others.
So what gives?
If we had to speculate about the reason Trump is so prominent across the candidate word clouds — and to be clear, we are speculating — it’s likely the same reason he’s so prominent in our current political discourse: the American public is fascinated by his meteoric rise as a politician. It’s expected that someone like Clinton, who has built a long political career, would hit these milestones, but perhaps unexpected that a businessman and reality TV star would do the same. Twitter is ultimately reflection of the world around it, after all.
Tweeting up a storm
As we did with the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary, we explored which states’ residents were actively tweeting during the 48-hour period surrounding the most recent electoral contests.
Once again, residents of the US capital, Washington, DC, swept the top spot across all contests.
We also found that Nevadans were highly engaged, ranking in the top 10 states tweeting about each candidate across both the Nevada caucuses and South Carolina primaries.
The top states tweeting during the Nevada and South Carolina contests in February also offered a glimpse of the anticipation felt in a few Super Tuesday states. Most notably was Alaska, which took a top 10 spot for 70% of the pre-Super Tuesday candidate cards, as well as Texas and Vermont, which took top 10 spots on 40% of the pre-Super Tuesday candidate cards. And not wanting to be left out of the ongoing Twitter discussion, New Hampshire residents remained active in the two electoral contests that followed their own, with that state taking a top 10 spot on 60% of the pre-Super Tuesday candidate cards.
An examination of the most active states tweeting on Super Tuesday reveals a few interesting findings, particularly for the geolocation of people tweeting about Clinton. For instance, despite winning the Minnesota caucus, Minnesota does not appear in Sanders’s top 10 Super Tuesday rankings, but it does appear on Clinton’s list. In addition, despite sweeping the primary contests in the South, no southern state ranked on Clinton’s top 10 list. On top of that, Clinton is the only one of the five candidates to not have her home state (Arkansas) rank in her top 10 list, whereas the other candidates had their respective home states make appearances in their top 10 lists. It’s worth noting though that New York, a state for which she served as senator, does appear on Clinton’s list.
Who’s winning the follower race?
We know which states are doing the most tweeting, but what about which candidate is winning the race for followers? It depends on how you look at it.
If you look at sheer quantity of followers, the rankings are as follows:
- Trump: 6 million+ followers
- Clinton: 5.3 million+ followers
- Sanders: 1.3 million+ followers
- Rubio: 1.1 million+ followers
- Cruz: 782,000+ followers
However, if you look at net gains in followers over the past several weeks, it’s a different picture.* We decided to take this view because it takes into account the fact that some of the candidates were much more well-known prior to announcing their candidacy. We began tracking each of the candidates on Twitter on January 14, 2016, a couple of weeks prior to the Iowa Caucus. If you look at the percentage gain in net followers since mid-January, the ranking shifts to:
- Sanders: 34.29 percent (gain of about 391,000 followers)
- Cruz: 21.78 percent (gain of about 154,700 followers)
- Rubio: 19.16 percent (gain of about 203,000 followers)
- Trump: 14.55 percent (gain of about 826,000 followers)
- Clinton: 7.99 percent (gain of about 408,700 followers)
*Wondering what’s up with the flat line on February 21? It represents one in only a small handful of times where our social graph fetching hit a snag and failed to accurately capture the total number of followers that day. We’re bummed it happened, but rest assured it was fixed by February 22.
Shifting winds impacting followership
It’s also fun to drill down into certain moments in time to understand how changes in followership fluctuate throughout the campaign cycle.
For example, the GOP debate on February 25, 2016 marked a major shift in tone from Rubio toward Trump. Much of the news analysis the following day, including this piece from the The Hill and this one from CNN, noted that Rubio was far more critical of Trump than he’s been in previous debates. Sure enough, if you look at trends in followership for Rubio, apart from the dates of electoral contests, he experienced his biggest spike within the 24-hour period surrounding that debate, gaining about 15,000 new followers.
Not to be outdone, the very next day on February 26, 2016, Trump experienced a decent bump himself, collecting about 44,000 new followers on the day Governor Chris Christie endorsed him for the presidency.
Until next time…
Keep checking back in with the Moz Blog and Followerwonk on Twitter between now and the general election in November, where we’ll keep you posted on our latest analysis and findings of all things presidential on Twitter.
We’d also love to hear from you in the comments if you have any insights to share from issues or candidates you track on Twitter, or areas you’d like to see us explore in future posts. Don’t be shy!