“It’s national security, stupid.”

As Election 2016 enters a new phase, Clinton and Trump supporters agree on at least one thing.

by Andrew Heyward and Uzra Khan

Political strategist James Carville created the mantra “It’s the economy, stupid” to exhort the staff in Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign against George Bush. But as Hillary tries to become the second President Clinton by defeating The Donald, national security has overshadowed the economy — at least on Twitter, and at least for now.

The 2016 election is shifting into a new phase — post-conventions, pre-debates — and the conversation online about issues is shifting too. National security now dominates the conversation even more than it did a week ago, although economy-related issues are growing in importance.

Here at the Laboratory for Social Machines, part of the MIT Media Lab, our Electome project has been monitoring the election-related conversations on Twitter. (More about Electome here.)

With access to all of Twitter’s output, our algorithms identify election-related tweets and filter them according to issues and candidates. We can therefore see which issues are talked about most, and sort by supporters of a candidate (which we define as those who exclusively follow that candidate on Twitter and no other).

During the DNC (from Sunday 7/24 through yesterday’s concluding session), more than half the issue-related tweets by Clinton supporters involved Foreign Policy/National Security — 51%, up dramatically from 32% just a week earlier during the course of the RNC. Of the top five issues Clinton supporters tweet about, 70% involve national security.

Top 5 issues shown in relation to one another

Among Trump followers, DNC week saw an increase in Foreign Policy/National Security concerns as well: their share rose from 34% to 39% of issue-related tweets, or 56% of the top five.

Top 5 issues shown in relation to one another

Economy-related issues like jobs and taxes all rose in prominence for both sets of supporters compared to the previous week during the RNC. Immigration’s share of conversation among both groups declined, and conversations about LGBT issues dropped out of the Top 5 for the Clinton group.

Both Trump and Clinton supporters’ conversations fairly closely mirror the overall election-issue-related conversation on Twitter, which also skews heavily towards national security, followed by Racial Issues. It looks like this:

Top 5 issues shown in relation to one another

We should note here that so far, the great majority of election-related tweets do not address policy at all — perhaps not a surprise given Donald Trump’s ability to dominate both coverage and conversation with other matters.

Is that about to change? In theory, with the nominees firmly in place and the presidential and vice-presidential debates on the horizon, the focus should shift somewhat towards the issues themselves.

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.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store