Is SXSW the New Iowa?

Eight of the 14 confirmed Democratic presidential candidates tweeted about or participated in the annual technology conference known as SXSW.

The “First in The Nation” primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire are never far from presidential candidates’ tweets—or their travel itineraries. But last week, all eyes were on Austin, TX, as the 2020 Democratic hopefuls mentioned the trendy innovation festival “South by Southwest” on Twitter more than both states combined.

More than half of the candidates tweeted about “SXSW,” showing that the hot Austin gathering is the newest political stump. The candidates used the festival to tweet about technology, climate change and the economy.

The Fourth Branch

An Increased Focus on Trump

Washington, D.C., Journalists mentioned Trump 46% more often on Twitter this past week, compared with their weekly 2019 average. Is this a sign of increased focus on the president?

It’s not news that the news media is focused on President Trump. But this week, we saw a big spike in their conversation about the president.

Washington, D.C. journalists and pundits mentioned Trump 904 times on Twitter over the last week. That marks a 46% increase from their weekly average of 618 Trump mentions so far this year.

Was this last week an outlier or the beginning of a trend of increased presidential focus? We’ll keep monitoring to find out.


Can the 2020 Presidential Candidates Keep Up With Trump on Twitter?

Two 2020 presidential candidates surpassed the Tweeter in Chief in tweet volume this week, while other candidates tweeted far below the Trump Twitter threshold. Will it have an effect on their overall campaigns?

We’ve been tracking how the 2020 presidential candidates are using Twitter as a campaigning platform, but can they keep up with President Trump’s Twitter activity?

Two candidates surpassed Trump’s Twitter activity (73 tweets) over the last week. Former tech executive Andrew Yang (@AndrewYangVFA) had 237 tweets last week, while author and spiritual adviser Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) had 118 tweets.

On the other end of the tweet volume spectrum, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) had less than half as many tweets as President Trump, at 31 and 35, respectively.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on how the candidates are pacing with Trump on Twitter.

Tweeter in Chief

You Get a Retweet and You Get a Retweet

President Trump retweeted fourteen separate accounts this week, a jump from his average of 7.4.

This week, President Trump broke from his usual Twitter habits by spreading the retweet wealth from his @realDonaldTrump account.

Fourteen different accounts snagged a retweet from Trump, including his wife’s @FLOTUS account and @GOPChairwoman Ronna McDaniel’s, with two retweets each.

With the total number of retweeted accounts nearly double his historic weekly average (7.4), Trump is letting twice as many people do the talking.

The Spin Factor

Republicans Stay Quiet on Trump’s National Emergency

While Democratic members of Congress took to Twitter to discuss Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, Republicans stayed noticeably quiet.

When analyzing the Spin Factor’s (a.k.a. Congress’) Twitter activity over the last week, a stark party divide emerged around President Trump’s national emergency.

Democrats tweeted the phrase “national emergency” 68 times last week, while Republicans used the phrase just six times. Similarly, Democrats tweeted “emergency” 208 times, while Republicans only tweeted the term 22 times.

The top tweet by retweet came from Rep. Danny Davis, who retweeted this post, arguing that the water problem in Flint, Mich., should be declared a national emergency, rather than a border wall.

The Spin Factor

Party Reinforcement

Among the top 20 most-retweeted accounts by Congress over the last week, there was no overlap between Democrats and Republicans. Instead, each party focused on highlighting their “own.”

Congress showcased its tribal mentality last week, with Democrats and Republicans exclusively retweeting their “own.” For example, Republicans retweeted @WhiteHouse and @SenateGOP, while Democrats retweeted @HouseJudiciary and @NRDems. In fact, among the top 20 most-retweeted accounts by Congress, there is no overlap between Democrats and Republicans.

While Democrats had nearly twice as many retweets as Republicans (1,817 vs. 905), the GOP appears to be more consistent in the accounts they are retweeting. The White House’s Twitter handle nabbed more than 10% (95 retweets) of Republicans’ retweets over the last week, while Democrats retweeted a wider range of accounts, including individual lawmakers, committees and media outlets.


Tweeting Presidential

The confirmed Democratic 2020 presidential candidates appear to all be tweeting from the same playbook. The group’s most-used words include people, president, change, country, fight and Americans.

The 11 confirmed Democratic 2020 presidential candidates are in campaign-mode on Twitter. The group’s most-used words over the last week were people, president, change, country, fight and Americans.

A deep dive into the Twitter activity of individual candidates – such as Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) – shows significant similarities in the language they use. Time will tell if this trend will continue as the field narrows, or if the candidates will begin to use the social media platform to differentiate themselves. We’ll be watching.

All the President's Friends

An Outlier in Retweet Trends?

All the President’s Friends bucked Twitter trends this week. As the tweet volume of the accounts President Trump follows on Twitter increased, so did their average number of retweets.

We saw a new trend in the Twitter activity of the accounts President Trump follows last week. As the group’s volume of tweets increased, so did their average number of retweets.

Typically, average retweets are negatively correlated with the overall number of tweets from a group because their followers’ engagement is spread out over a larger volume of tweets.

However, All the President’s Friends’ tweets this week received a similar amount of engagement, even as more people tweeted throughout the day. The group saw the highest number of tweets and retweets around last week’s State of the Union.

The Spin Factor

A Tale of Two Shutdowns

It’s not surprising that the partial government shutdown dominated Congress’ Twitter activity last week, but a breakdown of the top topics by party show some interesting divides in how lawmakers framed the issue.

The 35-day partial government shutdown was top of mind – and top of Twitter – for both Republicans and Democrats in Congress over the last week. But a closer look at the groups’ top topics show some interesting differences in the language they use…and their political strategy.

For example, “shutdown” was the top word used on Twitter by congressional Democrats, with 966 mentions in tweets. For Republicans, it was the third most-used word on Twitter but totaled only 164 mentions.

Meanwhile, the analysis shows that Democrats are using Twitter to blame President Trump for the shutdown, with “trumpshutdown” getting 355 mentions. On the other hand, the data indicate that Republicans are likely trying to place ownership with Democrats, with 156 mentions of their colleagues across the aisle.

Last week’s Twitter activity also uncovered an interesting takeaway in how each party frames the debate, with Democrats focusing more on the wall and Republicans concentrating on border security. Democrats had about 2.5 times as many tweets as Republicans mentioning the word “wall” (83 vs. 34), while Republicans had nearly 1.7 times as many tweets as Democrats mentioning the word “border” (210 vs. 127.)

Tweeter in Chief

Wall Trumps Shutdown

“Wall” was President Trump’s most-used word on Twitter last week, with 13 mentions. In comparison, the president only mentioned the word “shutdown” twice, and both mentions came on the day Trump announced an agreement to reopen the federal government for three weeks.

Like the Spin Factor, President Trump’s Twitter activity last week focused on the fight over funding for a wall at the southern border. One of his most-popular tweets stated, “Build the Wall and Crime Will Fall.” In fact, “wall” and “crime” were the top two most-used terms by the president on Twitter last week.

Interestingly, Trump was nearly silent on Twitter about the 35-day partial government shutdown, which was caused by an impasse over the border wall funding.

The president only mentioned the word “shutdown” twice on Twitter, both of which came on Friday as Trump announced an agreement to reopen the federal government for three weeks as border security negotiations continue. In comparison, the president mentioned the word “wall” 13 times last week.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on whether Trump’s Twitter strategy changes ahead of the new Feb. 15 government funding deadline.