2016 Election: Topical Storms

The Top Issues for Trump and Clinton Supporters

by Andrew Heyward and Uzra Khan

Coming out of the Republican Convention, Foreign Policy/National Security and Race are the hot-button issues for both Trump and Clinton supporters.

Here at the Laboratory for Social Machines, part of the MIT Media Lab, our data scientists have been tracking election-related conversations on Twitter since the campaign began last year, for a project called the Electome. (More about our work here.) The Electome has access to the full output of Twitter, roughly 500 million tweets per day. Its algorithms identify tweets about the election and classify them by topic and by candidate. It can also apply filters, in this case aggregating tweets by Trump or Clinton supporters, which it defines as people who follow one or the other exclusively.

Here are the top seven most tweeted-about issues by Trump supporters from last Sunday through the convention. They are consistent with Trump’s repeated promise that he will restore “law and order” (including the appearance of the Justice category). Interestingly, Justice may have gotten a boost in this list from frequent references made during the RNC to Hillary Clinton and “prison” that were picked up by the Electome’s algorithms.

Clinton’s supporters are tweeting about almost the same set of issues, with Foreign Policy/National Security and Race topping the list and Immigration and Guns holding their own. However, there is a notable difference: LGBT issues make the top seven list for Clinton’s exclusive followers in pretty much the same proportion as Immigration. (LGBT issues were #8 among Trump followers, behind Economy.)

Clinton’s followers mirror the pattern for ALL Twitter users who talk about election-related issues: LGBT is in the top five, behind Foreign Policy/National Security and Race and roughly even with Immigration. It will be interesting to see whether Trump’s overt expression of sympathy and outrage in his speech last night for LGBT victims in Orlando changes the conversation in the days ahead.

[Note: Issues shares are shown in relation to one another.]

Andrew Heyward is a visiting researcher at the MIT Media Lab’s Laboratory for Social Machines . Uzra Khan, a recent graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, is spending the summer as a project manager there. Soroush Vosoughi and Prashanth Vijayaraghavan, researchers at the Laboratory for Social Machines, developed the analytics for this post.

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