Big Block of Cheese Day

  3 m, 17 s

Big block of Cheese Day Header Photo

So what’s Big Block of Cheese Day?

Well, Andrew Jackson, in the main foyer of the White House, had a big block of cheese…

Or so begins the legend of Big Block of Cheese Day

The Obama administration has adopted the story of Big Block of Cheese Day from the popular political drama, The West Wing. This year was their second year hosting  Big Block of Cheese Day (back and feta than ever) on social media sites, using the hashtag #AsktheWH.

Crazy as it may seem, Big Block of Cheese Day has meant much more than West Wing references and bad cheese puns. Instead, the White House has introduced an online version where people can to reach out over social media and ask questions of the administration following President Obama’s State of the Union address. 

As a completely social media based event, the occasion was ripe for text analysis. Curious as to what we might find, we pulled thousands of tweets not only from this year’s Big Block of Cheese Day, but last year’s as well, and ran them through our text analysis software, so we could compare this years response with the one from last year. 

Here’s the Themes breakdown for Big Block of Cheese Day 2014:

BBoC Themes 2014

And here’s the Themes breakdown for 2015:

BBoC Themes 2015

Obviously Americans are concerned about an incredible variety of subjects. Illegal immigration was the biggest theme for both this and last year. The minimum wage also received a lot of attention, many people asking a variety of different questions about how changes to the minimum wage would effect the economy and unemployment. 

What people were talking about last year:

Gun violence was a particularly large concern last year. Most of the texts on the topic came from individuals using the hashtag #MomsDemand to ask the White House what in particular they were doing to curb gun violence.

One of the many tweets on gun violence from Big Block of Cheese Day 2014

One of the many tweets on gun violence from Big Block of Cheese Day 2014

The issue was front and center after last year’s State of the Union, which occurred only a month after the school shooting at Sandy Hook. Gun violence did not appear as a theme of discussion in the tweets we analyzed from this year.

And what they’re talking about now:

Climate change and community college received much more attention this year than last. This isn’t a huge surprise, since President Obama addressed both in his speech, in particular a new plan to make community college more accessible.

The biggest mystery in this year’s Themes was the 7.1% who were discussing “Final rule”. A quick check back to the original tweets revealed that the “Final rule”, “Final action”, and “Legal immigrants” Themes all relate to a push under the hashtag #H4EAD to make a final ruling on an amendment to existing immigration legislation. 

One of 814 tweets in our sample to use the #H4EAD tag. (Big Block of Cheese Da 2015)

One of 814 tweets in our sample to use the #H4EAD tag. (Big Block of Cheese Da 2015)

The cumulative percentage of sampled tweets concerning the H4 EAD issue, (8.6% of all sampled tweets included the #H4EAD hashtag), actually makes proposed work visas for the spouses and children of H1B visa holders the most discussed topic of Big Block of Cheese Day 2015.

While #AsktheWH may not be exactly what Leo McGarry had in mind when he started in on his Andrew Jackson speech, a quick overview like this one suggests that the day has still retained the spirit of that illustrious dairy-based holiday. Although the issues may change some from year to year, #AsktheWH is clearly about more than just asking questions or responding to the State of the Union address, but giving a voice to the concerns and interests to the smaller groups like #MomsDemand, or #H4EAD, who might not otherwise have the chance to catch the ear of the White House.

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Categories: Analysis, Topic Extraction