A Quicker Way to Detect Convention Bounces

Twitter metrics indicated this before poll results

Political decision-makers wait eagerly for information about convention bounces. They make important decisions on scheduling, messaging, and media buys based on the relative amplitude of bounces and it’s harder when the conventions are back-to-back. But unlike public opinion, social media metrics don’t take days to track: they take minutes. And this year, as we’ve documented, the right metrics applied to the right comparative time frames yielded the right results.

Where polling shows what happened yesterday or a few days ago we, at the PEORIA Project, are finding that Twitter is a very interesting guide as to what might happen next. As we showed on Friday, the Democrats had a significantly better convention than the Republicans on Twitter. For more on what the candidates said at their conventions, please read PEORIA Project’s Dr. Michael Cornfield’s Rhetorical Recaps here.

During the four days of the DNC, Hillary Clinton gained more followers, earned more retweets, and had more engagement on Twitter than the four days of the RNC. This edge foreshadowed Clinton getting a bigger bounce in post-convention polling.

Here’s a snapshot of the Twitter metrics:

Convention data courtesy of Crimson Hexagon

Considering Trump’s well-documented advantage on Twitter, it is striking that Clinton earned any advantage over him during her convention, when compared with his. But would this hold up in the polls that followed?

The Bounce

The polls are confounded by the schedule but the implications are clear. The conventions were on back-to-back weeks with the Republican National Convention on July 18–21, followed by the Democratic National Convention on July 25–28. Nationally-released polls are conducted over several days so there is some overlap in the data.

What is clear is that Clinton’s lead has widened over Trump. According to the Huffington Post polling aggregator:

  • On July 17, the day before RNC, Clinton was ahead 3.4%.
  • This lead dropped to 2.7% on July 24 (losing 0.7% to Trump), the Sunday after RNC and the day before DNC.
  • Polling reported the Sunday after DNC shows Clinton +4.6% (gaining 1.9% over Trump).
Courtesy of Huffington Post Pollster | Screenshot from August 1, 2016

Bottom line: Clinton’s bounce was close to three times larger than Trump’s bounce. The Twitter analytics indicated Clinton would benefit more than Trump did from the conventions — and she did.


The Speech

One bit of concern for our findings is Real Clear Politics, which aggregated a smaller set of polls and shows Clinton ahead by only 1.1%, a much smaller lead than HuffPo’s 4.6%. What I tell my students is that when aggregating polls, generally more is better. Still, it’s a widely followed barometer and we have used it in our analysis, too.

As you can see below, Trump actually took the lead during the Democratic National Convention. The polling averages show Clinton with a 3.2% lead on July 17, which isn’t too far off from HuffPo’s 3.4% lead. But then the averages diverge significantly.

Here is what happens in real-time:

  1. WikiLeaks drops a cache of emails on July 22 indicating the DNC was favoring Clinton over Sanders in the primary, prompting party chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to be forced to resign before gaveling open the convention. She wouldn’t speak at all. News spreads over the weekend and by Sunday her lead is down to 1.4% over Trump.
  2. On July 25, Bernie Sanders was booed by his own supporters when he tried to unite them behind Hillary Clinton saying “this is the real world we live in.” They continued to revolt throughout the convention inside and outside the building. Trump takes a 0.2% lead over Clinton.
  3. On July 26, Trump climbs into the lead by almost a point (0.9%).
  4. Trump’s lead peaks at 1.1% over Clinton on the third night of her convention. First Lady Michelle Obama’s roundly-hailed speech effectively ends the RCP-aggregated bounce.
  5. From there, Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama speak. Chelsea Clinton introduces Hillary Clinton, who accepts the nomination and she recovers. On July 28, Trump’s lead falls to 0.9%, then they’re tied on the 29th. Clinton regains a slight lead on the 30th (0.4%), which grows to 1.1% on July 31st. As of August 1, the lead expands to 2.2%.
Courtesy of RealClearPolitics | Screenshot from August 1, 2016

Whichever aggregators you prefer, Clinton is back ahead of Trump and the previous trends appear to be recovering. Trump is doing himself no favors by attacking, and thereby extending, the 7-minute speech of American Muslim Khizr Khan, whose son died heroically in Iraq saving others. Next are the debates but in the meantime, we’ll continue to follow not only the polls but the Twitter activity, which appears to be leading them.

If you enjoyed this article, click the💚 below so other people will see this here on Medium. You can follow our research on our website or on Twitter @PEORIAProject, which is funded by a generous grant from Mark R. Shenkman. To learn more about the Graduate School of Political Management visit our website or follow us on Twitter @GSPMgwu.

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