The Week in Politics, According to Twitter

Well, this past week was an eventful one in U.S. politics.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, delved into yet another Twitter-related controversy on Saturday after tweeting an image of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, standing near a giant pile of cash and a word bubble conspicuously shaped like the Star of David. Critics immediately pounced on the imagery and accused Trump of anti-Semitism.

The Trump campaign quickly responded by deleting the tweet and replacing it with an altered version, which featured a circle rather than a star. But then, in a surprising display of apparent self-sabotage, Trump went on to defend the use of the six-pointed star, claiming in an angry speech that his campaign staffers “shouldn’t have taken it down” and that it’s “just a star.” Unfortunately for Trump, the Anti-Defamation League and 27 other Jewish organizations disagree.

Moreover, the news website Mic traced down the origins of the controversial meme and discovered it first appeared on an internet message board for – wait for it – an alt-right movement of Neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, and white supremacists. Yikes.

Then on Tuesday, the investigation into Hillary Clinton and her “Damn Emails” all but concluded, when FBI director James Comey announced he would recommend no criminal charges against the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee. Speculation about a potential indictment swirled after it was discovered that Clinton did, in fact, send classified information through a private email server as Secretary of State.

Yet Clinton did not escape the week entirely unscathed. Although Comey stated that “no reasonable prosecutor” would seek charges in an instance like this, he rebuked Clinton for “extremely careless” behavior, thereby giving Republicans even more ammunition to make the case that she suffers from poor judgment.

Well, either of these two stories alone probably would have been enough to satisfy political pundits and commentators for the week. But then later on the very same day it was announced that Clinton likely would not face criminal charges, Mr. Trump once again made headlines.

During a campaign stop in Raleigh, NC, Trump made it a point to actually praise former Iraqi dictator and mass murderer Saddam Hussein Why? Because, as Trump put it, Hussein was good at killing terrorists.

“He was a bad guy — really bad guy. But you know what? He did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism,” Trump said.

Never mind that, as pointed out here by CNN, Iraq was recognized as a state sponsor of terrorism during Hussein’s reign.

So yeah, a lot happened in the U.S. presidential campaign this past week. And when big, newsworthy stories like these occur, I’m always interested to know how others in the general public react.

So, to gauge the current pulse of the U.S. public, I gathered and analyzed thousands of tweets about each presumptive Presidential candidate.

Using a simple Twitter mining tool I built in R, I restricted my search to tweets written in English and to those flagged as either recent or popular. I collected 1,000 tweets mentioning Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump and another 1,000 mentioning Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

And so, I present to you the past week in U.S. Presidential politics, according to Twitter.*

Figure 1: Words and Phrases Contained in Tweets Mentioning Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump.

wordcloud_Trump2
Note: Word size represents frequency across 1,000 tweets mentioning “Donald Trump.” Larger words occurred more frequently than smaller words. The name of each candidate is omitted from his/her respective word cloud. Tweets were gathered on July 6, 2016. Click image to enlarge and open in a new window.

Figure 2: Words and Phrases Contained in Tweets Mentioning Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton.

wordcloud_Clinton2
Note: Word size represents frequency across 1,000 tweets mentioning “Hillary Clinton.” Larger words occurred more frequently than smaller words. The name of each candidate is omitted from his/her respective word cloud. Tweets were gathered on July 6, 2016. Click image to enlarge and open in a new window.

Have something to add to this story? Feel free to leave a comment or question below.

Brian Kurilla is a psychological scientist with a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology. You can follow Brian on Twitter @briankurilla

 

*Note: Credit for much of the code that generated these word clouds belongs to Paolo Sonego at r-bloggers.com.

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