The Internet Loves Hillary Clinton, Hates Huckabee & Gave Cruz a First-Mover Boost

Ted Cruz

Today we got a glimpse of some cool data from the folks at the “Peoria Project”, a new initiative at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. This project is using social-analysis tools to measure the volume and sentiment of online discussion around the various presidential candidates:

Using Zignal Labs’ realtime, cross media story tracking platform, GSPM Associate Professors Lara Brown and Michael Cornfield have tracked, measured, and analyzed more than 10.3 million mentions of the presidential aspirants in news and social media. This report shows which political brands are catching on, and which are catching flak, making the oft-mentioned “invisible primary” more discernable.

They released their initial findings today, which you can check out in detail here. Some highlights, followed by charts of some of the relevant data:

  • Ted Cruz got a major boost in the online conversation by announcing first and early.
  • Rand Paul and Marco Rubio also saw noticeable boosts when they launched, but the other Republicans fell short by comparison.
  • A big focus of the study was the “echo effect” of candidate launches, a measure their influence on the overall online discussion. Hillary Clinton’s was large and positive, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee’s were large and negative.
  • Overall Hillary Clinton’s discussion volume was larger than any other candidate. And, her mentions on activists’ social media outstripped her mentions in the mainstream media (as did Ted Cruz’s, but not the other Republican candidates).
  • Interestingly, Bernie Sanders barely moved the needle when he launched, but volume and sentiment warmed to him over the next few days. In part, this seems to have been driven by his appearances on the Sunday talk shows after his announcement.
  • Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson both saw a significant drop in sentiment once they launched — they had high positives before, high negatives after. Sentiment about Rubio was negative before AND after.
  • Also note Hillary Clinton’s message focus — the “word cloud” of the discussion around her candidacy tightly reflected her messaging, while for some of the other candidates (Rand Paul Rand Paul!), it was all over the map.

For more, including additional slides like the ones below, see the PEORIA project site. Note that “sentiment analysis” is always tricky, as the Zignal Labs folks mentioned on a call about the results today. In this case, the direction of sentiment is more accurate than the exact number on the chart.

Also, longtime readers might remember our own forays into social media analysis, including a glimpse of Sarah Palin’s fall from grace and the numbers on the eve of the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

All Mentions

Online social media data for presidential campaigns

Echo Effect

Campaign launch echo effect


Online sentiment toward presidential candidates

Mainstream Media vs. Social Media

Mainstream media vs. social media

Word Cloud: Hillary Clinton Online Conversation

Clinton messaging word cloud

Word Cloud: Rand Paul Online Conversation

Rand Paul messaging word cloud

Looking forward to more great data from the PEORIA project — thanks, folks.


Image credit: “Ted Cruz by Gage Skidmore 6” by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Written by
Colin Delany
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