Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Donald Trump Is Getting An Even Bigger Reward for Negativity Now

Last night's Republican National Convention in Cleveland sparked my interest in Donald Trump's persona and campaign... again. It was a weird mix of reality TV stars, war heroes, and grieving mothers (who had a poor understanding of what next of kin means... but that's another story). The night reminded me a bit of my earlier post that demonstrated that Trump gets more positive response by going negative (with the opposite result for Hillary Clinton).

For me, the interest combined with opportunity (work-related reason to pull out my sentiment mining code today).  My findings here are interesting, though consistent with prior work (seriously, go read that prior post for context).  In a way things got "worse."  Here's what I found:
  • Trump continues to be significantly more negative than the rest of the field.  
  • Trump continues to be significantly more bipolar in sentiment (higher sentiment variance) than the rest of the field.
  • Trump is getting an even higher boost from his negative tweets now.  Whereas historically he was receiving 230 additional retweets per negative word, he's currently getting over 800 incremental per negative word.  


I'm using the same methodology as last time, downloading tweets using the Twitter API. Then I use fairly common stemming and word removal techniques, and throw my sentiment mining algorithm at it (code released in prior post). Also, this time I limited to July tweets, so I cut out all of the tweets used in my prior analysis.

The sentiment score derived is simply a score based on how negative or positive a tweet is using an algorithmic analysis of the words used in that tweet. More negatively scored tweets use more negative words, positive scored tweets use more positive words.


There are many ways to cut this data, but I will run the data few ways for quick analysis.  Just quick data, findings and descriptions.

First, what do the distribution of tweet sentiments for each candidate look like?  I left Bernie in because he's... still... apparently in the race.  And myself, for full disclosure.

And a visual distribution of the two main candidates:

  • Trump is the only one with negative average tweet sentiment.
  • Trump also has the widest distribution of sentiment (visually, standard deviation), showing some bipolarity in his tweets.
  • Clinton is the most positive tweeter of the group.
  • I'm the most active on twitter of the group (hmmm).
Next we look at a more interesting area, how many retweets each candidate gets by net sentiment score.  In essence, this analysis looks at how Twitter users react to each candidates tweet. The more retweets, the more interaction, the fewer.. less interaction.  If we correlate this to the sentiment of tweets we can determine what kind of sentiment draws the most interaction for each candidate.  Here's what Trump looks like (sentiment score is horizontal axis, retweets per tweet on vertical):

And Clinton:

A few takeaways:
  • The relationship for Trump is statistically significant, and we can infer that Trump gets 800 incremental retweets (on average) for each negative word he uses.  (more negative == more interactions)
  • The Clinton correlation is statistically insignificant, and almost completely flat.

And just for fun, let's look at the most negative tweet for each Tweeter:


Final thoughts:
  • Trump continues to be more negative on Twitter than Clinton, and also more bipolar.  This behavior may be somewhat a reaction to his environment though, as Trump gets continuous positive feedback for worse tweets.
  • Clinton's tweets continue to be more neutral, and somewhat less volatile in sentiment.  Her followers also do not react systematically more positive towards more negative (or positive) tweets as Trump's followers do.

Oh, and I know you just hung around for the word clouds, so here you go.

Donald (Thanks people, Making America Great Again):

Hillary (mainly talks about Donald):


 And.. me.


  1. I'm struggling to interpret this.

    Is it that his supporters like his negativity or that his detractors like to call out things he says that they don't like?

    Is she just milquetoast or is her following just more consistent and faithful?

    The scale on each retweet vs sentiment graph is crazy to see. The Donald gets a lot more attention. Wow.

    What are we to infer from the fact that Donald thanks people a lot and Hillary mostly talks about Donald?

    1. I've gone a bit deeper a few times and looked into the accounts that tend to retweet Trump. With one notable exception (Taco Bowl tweet), the retweets seem to be legit and not coming from liberal accounts offering commentary. It appears that Trump fans do appreciate his negative tweets, especially attacking Hillary more. This may however, just be the nature of incumbency/party out of power where the party out of power (Trump) has to attack the status quo and thus negativity is an effective technique, whereas negativity towards status quo from Hillary is effectively attacking a record that includes her.

      There is a secondary factor as well, whereas Trump is a candidate that gained his following first as a celebrity and reality star, that his following generally relates more to drama, and thus that's what gets the most interaction.

      With Clinton, I think her campaign is a machine based on consistency, hence the stronger central-tendency of her tweet-sentiment distribution. She isn't hugely negative very often, and the nature of her attacking/negativity is a lot different than Trump. I think a good portion of the Clinton strategy is "don't screw this up" so they are playing somewhat conservative.

      Donald does get a lot more attention, which is interesting because their follower count is similar (9 versus 7 million). Two directions on that, first because Trump is first a celebrity then a politician, then its possible his followers are more twitter engaged. Second, I'm taken back to that Facebook meme "have you ever met a real Hillary fan?" which .. yes I have, but it points to an important point: There aren't a lot of very-passionate and vocal Hillary supporters.

      I don't know that there's a lot in the difference in words (I largely post word clouds out of self parody) but if you look at them a pattern tends to develop which is just a different style in managing people and relationships. Trump interacts with his fans (and calls Hillary "crooked" a lot), whereas Hillary is very focused on Donald.

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