Twitter Talks Kaine

By Uzra Khan

Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine’s convention speech last night had the Internet abuzz with dad jokes.

At the Laboratory for Social Machines, we like to focus on the issues driving the conversation on Twitter about this election (more about our work here). Since the much-anticipated announcement of Kaine as the Democratic VP pick last Friday, we wondered which issues the Clinton-Kaine ticket was prompting people to talk about on Twitter.

One of the tools we’ve developed, called a “chat-scan,” can help. It reveals which specific issues are appearing in the same Tweets as a given candidate or candidates. For example, a Tweet that mentions “Obamacare” along with “#ClintonKaine” would be included in this Clinton-Kaine chat-scan and classified under healthcare (more about how it works here).

A Clinton-Kaine chat-scan for the Twittizenry overall, from the day Kaine was announced as VP, looks like this:

For Clinton followers on Twitter (those who follow her and no other candidate), the scan is different:

Noteworthy observations:

  • Abortion is the issue that comes up most in connection with Kaine and Clinton, both in the overall Twitter conversation and among Clinton followers. Kaine is a self-described “traditional Catholic” who personally opposes abortion but believes that women’s reproductive choices should be beyond the purview of government interference. His views on this issue have sparked a lot of chatter online. In our Trump-Pence chat-scan last week, we saw a similar dominance of the abortion issue.
  • Trade comes up much more in the overall Twitter conversation than in the conversation among just Clinton followers. Kaine’s initial support for, and now opposition to, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal — mirroring Clinton’s own flip-flop — is clearly generating more scrutiny outside of the pro-Clinton camp. TPP is a divisive issue in both parties and Trump also opposes it.

It’s worth reiterating here, as we did last week, that the prevalence of these issues does not necessarily mean that the the Twittizenry is ignoring other issues like foreign policy, race, and guns. The point here is that conversation about Clinton and Kaine (when both are mentioned in the same tweet) is heavily correlated with abortion and trade.

Abortion is the “winning” issue, by far, for both tickets.

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. The data visualization was done by Eric Chu.

Photo Credit: Associated Press