It’s that time again, when select men and women in the United States of America spend all their time and ungodly sums of money in pursuit of the highest office in the land: the Presidency. This cycle, the field is as varied and crowded as we’ve ever seen it.
The go-to method of judging how a candidate is doing in any particular race at any given time is typically done through opinion polling. Yet, these polls aren’t always as accurate as journalists or the candidate themselves would like them to be. That’s where we come in.
Lexalytics, working at the request of The Boston Globe, measured the sentiment behind tweets from self-identified voters in New Hampshire over the past month. Using Salience, we were able to determine which candidates were being talked about the most and what people think of them. What we discovered was interesting.
The respective front-runners for each party, Donald Drumpf and Hillary Clinton, were the subject of most of the tweets measured. Both candidates had slightly higher negative sentiment associated with tweets about them than positive. For Mr. Drumpf, 13 percent of the tweets were negative and nine percent were positive. For Secretary Clinton, the disparity was a little tighter with 12 percent negative to 10 percent positive. The rest were neutral, which shows that, as popular as they are, the majority of people we studied haven’t made up their minds about them.
In the Democratic race, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont struck a balance at nine percent for both negative and positive mentions. Also striking a similar balance were Democratic candidates Jim Webb, Lawrence Lessig and little-known Republican candidate Jim Gilmore, the former Governor of Virginia. Though the latter three only got a tiny fraction of Sanders’s 1,768 mentions.
Yet, where sentiment analysis really shows its value is in how it can provide unique context to the results of opinion polls. For example, in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is showing that he has zero percent support in New Hampshire. That doesn’t necessarily mean the voters don’t like him. It could be a sign that he needs to campaign more, because people just aren’t aware of him in the crowded Republican field.
Only, our analysis shows that the Jindal campaign’s problems are much worse than not enough ad buys or the need for more town halls. Out of 51 total mentions only two percent of them were positive and 29 percent were negative, by far the highest percentage of negative sentiment for any candidate. This puts the calls from GOP insiders for Gov. Jindal to exit the race in a much different context than the opinion poll alone.
People always say that you shouldn’t discuss politics, but we couldn’t disagree more. For all its flaws, the American political process is full of passionate arguments, silly moments, and a genuine desire to make the Union a little more perfect, as the saying goes.
What we really love about what we can do for journalists or the candidates themselves is help give the voters (#EverydayAmericans) a louder voice in the process. With a targeted focus like this, we can see how the voters feel about the candidates and the issues that are important to them in a given area over a given time.