The Conversation White Paper: The Election and Trump Talk

Twitter Terminology: Trump vs. Incumbents 

Despite a highly polarized political climate leading up to the midterms, Republican and Democratic incumbents’ most-used words on Twitter converge, while Trump stands out.

It may not be surprising that President Trump, congressional Republican incumbents and congressional Democratic incumbents use different language on Twitter. But taking a closer look unveils an interesting relationship between the three groups.

When looking at the top 10 words used on Twitter by the three groups, Trump and Democratic incumbents have two terms in common: “Trump”  and “president.” Despite the overlap, it’s clear the sentiment is quite different when coming from Trump vs. the Democrats talking about him.

Surprisingly, Trump and GOP incumbents have zero top terms in common. Trump’s top terms include some of his key issues: “trade,” “border,” “fake,” and “news,” while GOP incumbents are focusing on traditional conservative talking points, such as “economy” and “tax.”

Meanwhile, congressional incumbents on both sides of the aisle appear to have more in common: four out of their top 10 terms, in fact. Despite the partisan environment, GOP and Democratic incumbents are using a more unifying tone on Twitter, with common terminology like “community,” “support,” “American” and “Congress.”

Talking Trump on Twitter

We took a look at the top words trump uses in his tweets. Can you guess who sounds most like the president on Twitter? Some of the answers may surprise you.

We know President Trump tweets a lot, but do you know his favorite words? Turns out it’s himself and his country. Of the top 20 words he uses, six include “president,” “trump,” “U.S.,” “country,” “America,” and “American.” Trump also frequently uses adjectives in his tweets such as “great,” “good,” “fake” (as in “fake news,”) and “big.”

But even more interesting is which congressional incumbents’ Twitter talk is most like the president’s. The first three are Republican Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer (Mo.), John Rutherford (Fla.) and Mac Thornberry (Texas).

But surprisingly some Democrats also had high Trump Parrot scores. Rep. Maxine Waters (D- Calif.) had the fourth-highest Trump Parrot score, while Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) came in 7th and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) came in 10th.

All of the representatives on this list are in comfortable positions heading into tomorrow. But only time will tell if parroting Trump is a smart Twitter strategy.

Endorsements and Endorsing the President’s Twitter Talk

Many are watching whether Trump’s 93.3% primary endorsement record will hold in the General Election. But we’re watching something different – how did the 87 Republican candidates who nabbed a Trump endorsement start parroting the president’s language on Twitter. And, will it pay off at the polls?   

As of Nov. 1, President Trump has made 87 endorsements in the General Election. In battleground primary endorsements, Trump has a 93.3% (14-1) record. While we won’t know how Trump’s endorsement will affect the outcome of some of the most closely watched races for a day or two, we can look at how the president’s endorsement impacts candidates’ “parroting” scores.

The table below shows this group of candidates’ most popular words before and after a Trump endorsement.

Whether a candidate “speaks” like Trump on Twitter doesn’t appear to be a factor in whether they can nab a presidential endorsement. The percentage of the Trump Talk in this group’s tweets ranges from 7.78% (Diane Harkey, who is running for a California House seat) to 13.96% (Bob Stefanowski, who is running for Governor of Connecticut).

But perhaps more interesting is how a candidate’s tweets change after a Trump endorsement. Some candidates’ Trump talk significantly shifted after nabbing the president’s endorsement. Foster Friess, who is running for Governor of Wyoming, increased his Trump talk by more than 101%, while Rep. Erik Paulsen (Minn.), Mike DeWine, who is running for Ohio Governor, and Jim Hagerdorn, who is running for a Minnesota House seat, all saw their Trump talk jump between 66% and 75% after gaining an endorsement.

It’s worth noting that several candidates, like Rep. Neal Dunn (Fla.), Rep. Rod Blum (Iowa) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), actually declined in Trump Talk on Twitter post-endorsement.

So, will taking a page from Trump’s Twitter playbook make or break a candidate’s chance at the polls on Tuesday? We’ll be watching.