Drew Margolin, a Cornell University communication professor who studies human dynamics through social media, has been tracking how certain groups of Twitter users react to presidential candidates on Twitter since the beginning of the primaries.
Using a new method of real-time analysis, Margolin and his collaborator, Yu-Ru Lin of the University of Pittsburgh, found that different groups of GOP voters seemed to be watching different debates last night. You can find more details about the groups’ composition below Margolin’s quote.
NOTE: More data and analysis from the beginning of the campaign season can be found at, http://cornellcals.tumblr.com/tagged/Election-2016-Tweets. To monitor how groups are responding throughout the campaign, check out debatemeter.com
“Our Twitter, groups' reactions to the debate last night suggest the campaign has settled into three basic patterns. First, the country is divided along partisan lines. Second, Donald Trump draws lots of attention for controversial things he says off the cuff, drawing attention away from issues his supporters and other GOP members care about. And third, his supporters and other GOP members don't agree on what is important.
“There was a clear triplet of top phrases: ‘No one has more respect for women [than I do],’ ‘[Hillary's a] nasty woman’ and ‘You're the puppet,’ all quotes by Trump mocked and treated with incredulity by six of the eight groups, including two Republican groups – Candidate Avoiders and Trump Avoiders. The remaining two Republican groups seemed to be watching another debate.
“But in a microcosm of the struggles that the GOP has had in this campaign, more traditional republican issues – such as the debt problem, or abortion – were not only ignored by the somewhat less political ‘avoider’ Republican groups, they were ignored by the ‘Defectors to Trump’ – those who initially followed another GOP candidate but switched to Trump during the campaign. This group quoted Trump directly by retweeting his Twitter account, with their top phrases being ‘make America great’ and ‘we have no country.’ They also focused more on Trump's ‘nasty woman’ comment than on Hillary's ‘penny to the debt’ or ‘rip families apart.’
“This pattern doesn't bode well for Trump's short term chances. The only consistent reaction to him is one of mockery and negativity among Democrats and those not inclined toward him to begin with. But this also suggests that Hillary's lead does not indicate a consensus of support for her. From the point of view of our groups, this campaign has been about Trump. The polls show Hillary in the lead, and there is nothing in the reaction to yesterday’s debate that suggests this will change. However, there is much to suggest that, if elected, a President Hillary Clinton will face a divided GOP whose main point of solidarity is their dislike of her.”
The Twitter groups Margolin is studying throughout the 2016 presidential election:
- Defectors to Hillary: People who started out with another Democrat, but now follow Hillary
- Hillary Dumpers: People who started out with Hillary, now follow another Democratic candidate instead (almost always Sanders)
- Hillary Avoiders: People who started out with another Democrat, dumped them, don’t (yet) follow Hillary
- Democratic Candidate Avoiders: People who started out with Hillary, now follow no Democratic candidates
- Defectors to Trump: People who started out with another Republican, but now follow Trump
- Trump Dumpers: People who started out with Trump, now follow another Republican candidate instead
- Trump Avoiders: People who started out with another Republican, dumped them, don’t (yet) follow Trump
- Republican Candidate Avoiders: People who started out with Trump, now follow no Republican candidates
Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.
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