A Trump-Pence “chat-scan”

What’s Twitter saying about the ticket?

by Uzra Khan

It’s official: a Donald Trump-Mike Pence 2016 GOP ticket for the White House. VP nominee Pence, unveiled to the public by Trump last week, will speak at the Republican National Convention this evening.

Here at the Laboratory for Social Machines, our Electome project aims to shed new light on the political conversation in the digital sphere. We’re particularly interested in digging into the issues that are driving this election, as an alternative to “horse race journalism” (more about our work here).

So which election issues does the Twittizenry associate with the Trump-Pence ticket?

One of the analytics we’ve developed can answer this. It’s called a “chat-scan” and it reveals which specific issues are appearing in the same Tweets as a given candidate or candidates (how chat-scans work is explained here). So, for example, a Tweet that mentions “climate change” as well as “#TrumpPence16” would be included in this chat-scan, under the Environment/Energy issue. The chat-scan for Trump-Pence for Twitter overall, beginning the day Trump announced Pence as his choice, looks like this:

For Trump followers on Twitter (those who have been following only him and no other presidential candidate), the result is quite different:

A few things worth noting about these chat-scans:

  • The overall Twitter conversation (including every election commenter, no matter who they follow) about Trump and Pence, focuses strongly on LGBT issues, environment/energy, and drugs. On the first two issues, Pence has well-known views opposed by many liberals, so it’s not surprising those figure prominently in the response. But why are drugs a focus? Because as Indiana’s Governor, Pence has been enforcing strict laws against marijuana, a hot button among some liberal voters.
  • Trump followers are talking in large numbers about education and trade in connection with the ticket. Pence is known to be anti-Common Core. And he’s held a generally pro-trade stance, in contrast to Trump, who has expressed skepticism about the traditional GOP support for trade.
  • Abortion is an issue that is closely associated with Trump and Pence, both among Trump followers and the overall Twitter population. Pence, a long-time hero among pro-life voters (for instance, as governor he championed a law that would have mandated funerals for fetuses), draws a lot of chatter from people on both sides of this issue.

Bear in mind that the Twittizenry isn’t ignoring other major issues such as foreign policy and race. Far from it, as our previous chat-scan analysis has shown. By restricting this analysis to just Tweets that mention both Trump and Pence, we were able to isolate which new issues Pence brought into the conversation.

Candidate Clinton has yet to make her veep choice. We recently looked at which potential running mates were sparking the most discussion. When the announcement is made, we’ll be back to look at the response.

Uzra Khan, a recent graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, is spending the summer as Electome project manager at the Laboratory for Social Machines, a research group at the MIT Media Lab. Financial support for the project comes from the Knight Foundation and also from Twitter, which provides access to its data. Soroush Vosoughi and Prashanth Vijayaraghavan, researchers at the Laboratory for Social Machines, developed the analytics for this post. Eric Chu visualized the data for it.

Photo Credit: AP