Tweets about WI Gubernatorial Race Part II: Election Night

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted! The last few months has been absolutely crazy, with visiting family members, paper deadlines, and end-of-semester tasks. I did hit a major milestone: I have officially completed all my coursework for my Ph.D!

Today, I want to focus on my part-2 analysis of the WI election, which I am informally calling, “If you want to know who will win gubernatorial elections first, follow local journalists.”

The figure below is a plot of tweets about Scott Walker and Tony Evers on the night of the Gubernatorial Election (12 a.m. to 2 a.m.). [For more about the data collection, please see the post below].

The Big Picture

The first vertical line represents the first tweet in my dataset that called a win for Evers. This came from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Mary Spicuzza, who tweeted out at 12:53 a.m. CST (apologies; my timestamp is not adjusted for daylights saving).

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While there was an increase in the number of tweets after Spicuzza’s, it didn’t reach full attention for another hour and a half, when it was officially reported by the Associated Press at 1:25 a.m. Attention, measured by counts of tweets with the word Walker or Evers, spikes not long after this tweet.

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What happened in that window of time, the half hour between when it was officially reported by the Journal Sentinel, and when it was reported by the Associated Press?

A Twitter Conversation among Wisconsonites

Unsurprisingly, most of the tweets from this time appeared to come from Wisconsin residents, or people with ties to Wisconsin (as indicated by their geographic information, or by information in their profile, such as being an alum of a UW-System school. One tweet from a self-reporting Wisconsonite said, “Tony Evers (D) now up over Scott Walker (R) by just over 1,000 votes out of 2.5M votes cast. #WiGov”

There were also many references to local media outlets, as seen in the examples below (which were also retweeted by mostly Wisconsinites):

“Looks like @tmj4 just reported live from the courthouse that 38,000 votes just went to #tonyevers when @cityofmilwaukee votes we're tallied. I'm calling it. Tony Evers defeats Scott Walker as the next govenor.of #Wisconsin. Boom. https://t.co/0Y1cObTwy!” - RyanThompson

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There were also many references to local Wisconsin issues, such as Walker’s rampant Union-busting, or his gutting of education funding (this was mentioned by both people in Wisconsin and those outside of Wisconsin, though the former had an obviously greater attachment):

”Fingers crossed that my great home state of Wisconsin has finally rid themselves of the Union-busting, education-destroying, Foxconn swindling corporate shill that is Scott Walker. But I won’t believe he’s gone until every vote is counted” - @sjtruog (1:17 AM)

“Wait did Scott Walker actually lose? Bc I hate him with such a particular acid for what he did to public education in that state that I want to know if I can dance a mad tarantella on that smug prick’s career grave” - @meganskittles

Cultural References

One of the things I really enjoyed about these tweets were their continual cultural references to Wisconsin. Because tweets during this time were predominantly written by Wisconsonites or those with ties to Wisconsin, there were many tweets referencing things like Menards, as noted above, Culvers, and the Packers).

“I've been this proud to be a Wisconsinite three times: when Favre won a Super Bowl, when Aaron won a Super Bowl, and when we voted melty-faced suffering-horny human khaki Scott Walker out of office.” - @meg_luvs_pandas (1:24 AM)

“If Tony Evers beats Scott Walker that would be the most Wisconsin shit that ever happened since Culver’s showed up.” - @Joe_Bowes (12:53 AM, Milwaukee, WI)

“Can someone tell me if Scott Walker is going to have to get a job at Menard's so I can go to bed.“ - @JustinLaughs (1:07 AM, from Greendale)

Another noticeable feature of this language was the use of the pronoun “we” to refer collectively to Wisconsinites.

“are… are we finally getting rid of scott walker [?] is it happening [?]” - @AlexZiebart (12:55 AM, Milwaukee, WI)

“I’m so nervous to see who won governor in wisconsin […] we need Scott walker out of office!!!” - @taypyt (12:55 AM)

“My final political tweet for the evening: if we have really finally done it, nothing has given me more pleasure than to vote against Scott Walker in five different elections. Bye Felicia” - @alephtwo (12:58 AM, Madison, WI)

The use of this “royal” we (“state-wide” we?) instills the idea of a collective identity that is directed towards the voting out of Walker from office. It evokes a sense of solidarity, or “survival” from Walker’s terms in office.

Outsiders looking in

A few outside of the WI gate were able to tap into this information, as indicated by this tweet from VA resident: This is one of the most unbelievable finishes I have ever seen. Came down to a bunch of uncounted absentee ballots. Looks like Scott Walker is done. https://t.co/D8VwrxGZOk.” - @junkiechurch, (12:57 AM)

Those in close proximity to the Wisconsin appeared to be more attentive as well:

“No more Scott Walker. Wisconsin, I tease you all the time, but you did a good job today.” - @KyleWarner3000 (1:16 AM, DeKalb, IL)

However, many (presumably) outside of Wisconsin expressed frustration about wanting to learn more:

“DAMNIT CNN SHOW ME THE SCOTT WALKER RACE“ - @Seattle_9 (1:12 AM, Seattle, WA)"

“Wait did Scott Walker actually lose? Bc I hate him with such a particular acid for what he did to public education in that state that I want to know if I can dance a mad tarantella on that smug prick’s career grave “ - @godhatesyeast (1:13 AM, USA [no state indicated])

It was about Walker losing, not Evers winning

As seen by the figure above, attention was squarely focused on Walker losing, rather than Ever winning. This suggests that Twitter communities perceived the election as a victory because Walker lost, not necessarily because Evers won. Many of the tweets were focused on insulting Walker.


”EAT MY ENTIRE SHIT COTT WALKER” - @ChiYoungMoon (12:59 AM)

“Good bye Scott Walker you trifling ham and cheese eatin' bitch https://t.co/ODW3kMWPhC“ - @jae_dubb (1:09, Chicago)

In situations where Evers was referenced, it was often because he (having been a teacher) made an ironic foil to Walker.

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“Scott Walker loses thanks to a Milwaukee wave. What a night. Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy. https://t.co/2KEDdpeNAe3” - @Save_the_Daves (1:15 AM, Milwaukee, WI)

In the above instances, Evers is celebrated but not explicitly mentioned. Walker, by contrast, is referenced in full name. In the first tweet, by @Bro_Pair, Evers is framed as a “kindly teacher”, the kind of person who was directly impacted by Walker’s economic policy. The expression of joy (“glad I stayed up late enough…”) reflects a sense of schadenfreude—taking pleasure in watching Scott Walker lose. This sense was expressed by many others…

“It looks like Scott Walker might lose to Tony Evers. Don’t go to bed or you might miss the best schadenfreude of the midterm elections.” - @RiskyLiberal (1:23 AM)

“Seeing Kris Kobach and Scott Walker lose is pretty sweet, but my schadenfreude dream team was Ted Cruz and Steve King “ - @antitractionist (1:23 AM)

… and sometimes in bizarrely sexual references.

The Recount Topic

Tweets about a recount appeared as early as announcements about the Milwaukee absentee ballots. Many tweets were written by conservative-identifying or MAGA-identifying accounts.

(R) Scott Walker, WI gov, is requesting a recount.” - @AKLLL49 (1:20, Profile: Love our @POTUS […] PHUCK #Grammernazis #Haters of #Guns and #Freespeech. #MAGA)

“Both sides expect protracted recount in Wisconsin governor's race between Scott Walker and Tony Evers https://t.co/ilCQHR8KUT” - @jackiebullivant (1:22, Profile: Conservative, business owner & political enthusiast. We need honest, authentic gov’t FOR and BY the people b/c people matter! Free speech. #MAGA #PPC2019)

“Governor Scott Walker's campaign has announced plans to call for a recount, should Evers come out on top. Either candidate can call for a recount if the results come in within 1%.” - @KFIZ1450 (1:03 AM, Fond du Lac, WI)

One was pretty sure Walker was going to win:

“Hey look on the bright side at least we still have Scott Walker and Ted Cruz.” - @johnforchione (12:57 AM)

Liberal Rebuttal

By 1:23, there were already (mostly liberal) rebuttals to a call for a recount, with many pointing out (ironically) that Walker had pushed for the bill that now prevented him from calling a recount.

“Tony Evers defeats Scott Walker by 1.1%! Outside of the margin for a recount that Scott Walker passed  into law for a recount. Karma is a bitch!” - @Fetzer2 (1:23 AM)

Conclusion

What can we learn from this analysis?

1) If you want to know who wins a state-wide election, follow local reporters. They have the greatest level of access to updated voting information, and are much more knowledgeable about their geographic region than national news outlets.

2) In a media environment that focuses on one event, or what researchers would call a media storm, “liberals” and “conservatives” respond to each other very quickly, within the span of a few minutes. Given the hybrid nature of the U.S. media system, it is likely that media storm dynamics will impact social media, particularly Twitter(as a platform for professional journalism). Capturing this dynamic in media storms, therefore, requires very granular levels of data.

3) To understand the politics, one needs to understand the culture of that society. Regional cultural references were an important feature of this discourse, which was unique compared to the post-AP tweet time span. In this latter time, tweets were still focused on Walker’s loss (rather than Ever’s win). However, following Associated Press’ reporting, the tweets were predominantly by those outside of Wisconsin. The story was reaching national attention, and the discourse had lost this specific local component.

Overall, this was an interesting project for me to examine how a state-wide political event goes national on Twitter in an hour and a half.

Regarding the separation of immigrant families in the United States:

The history of the United States is one of cruel domination and inhumanity.

Since the creation of the United States in 1776 (242 years ago), until 1865 (153 years ago), American citizens owned Black slaves. Jim Crow laws enforced racial segregation for another 100 years (until 1965).

188 years ago (in 1830, under Andrew Jackson), the United States passed the Indian Removal Act, resulting in the forced relocation of over 10,000 Native Americans (over 2,000 died).

125 years ago (in 1893), U.S. settlers overthrew the King of Hawai’i, with the intent of annexation. Under duress, then-King Kalakaua was forced to sign a new constitution that relinquished his power to white Americans who controlled the legislature. Despite opposition by then-President Grover Cleveland, Hawai’i became a state in 1958 (Eisenhower).

Following the brutal Philippine-American War 119 years ago (1899, 200,000+ deaths), the United States (represented by then-Governor of the Philippines Taft) imposed a strict rule over the island that lasted until WWII, when the U.S. left the Philippines to fend for themselves against Japan.

76 years ago (1942, FDR), the United States forced over 100,000 residents of Japanese ancestry into an internment camp. The U.S. Census Bureau only admitted their complicity in 2007. 

Knowing this history should allow us to avoid the inhumanity of our forefathers. And yet, we have failed to do this time and time again. We let paranoia and xenophobia and supersede logic, compassion, and whatever the U.S. claims to stand for. Don’t make that mistake today.

In 2018, the United States apprehended and separated between 1,000 and 2,000 children from families trying to cross the U.S.-Mexican border. Over 11,000 children are held in Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) sites, which have been overfilled for Do4 years (since 2014). The ORR regularly loses children (according to one NYT story, 1,475 children cannot be found). 

What can you do about this?

  1. Support the ACLU; whose chapters in California are actively litigating.
  2. Donate to Act Blue, a collective of eight groups who oppose the separation of children from parents when attempting to cross the U.S. border.
  3. Call your Senator and express your opposition. Don't worry - Senator's offices are very used to this type of call. You can check out the above link for an example script.
  4. If you are in a major city, volunteer to become a Child Advocate through the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights.

 

 

Understanding a little more about recent coverage of Korean-U.S. relations through adjective use

Yesterday, U.S. President Trump pulled out of a "highly-anticipated" summit meeting with North Korea's Kim-Jung Un. Given the freshness of this story, it'll take some time collect enough articles to do an anlaysis of this specific incident. But, in the meantime, some interesting results from my analysis of Korean-U.S. relations in American news below.

(Data cleaned and analyzed using R tidytext, quanteda, and OpenNLP. Graphs produced by ggplot2 or MediaCloud.)

Count of articles using the words "Trump" and "North Korea" in top American news media (digital + traditional). Results gathered using MediaCloud archive.

Count of articles using the words "Trump" and "North Korea" in top American news media (digital + traditional). Results gathered using MediaCloud archive.

As we can see above, the majority of the coverage appeared to be between May 7 (when North Korea claimed to have demolished a nuclear test site) and May 21. Using those two weeks as my window, I pulled all articles referencing "Trump" and "North Korea" from four news outlets: CNN (n =96), Fox (n = 114), the New York Times (n = 89) and the Washington Post (208), a total of 507 news stories.

I tagged all the words in the news stories for their part of speech using OpenNLP. I then pulled out all the adjectives, removed duplicates, and screened them for accuracy (OpenNLP has an above 90% accuracy, but the human eye is critical to ensuring quality results). I finally looked at the use of these adjectives in relation to specific actors/parties (mainly North Korea, South Korea, and the United States). Given the effect of political personalization, I consider both the country name and the name of the leader (e.g., "North Korea" OR "Moon Jae-In" OR "President Moon" OR "Moon Jae In") as keywords. I retained the adjective if it appeared within three words of the NK, SK, or US keywords.

Raw counts are presented below (keep in mind the corpus is not perfectly balanced... also, sorry I was too lazy to reorder the charts XD Just so tired and wanted to practice some code):

Most commonly used adjectives related to Trump/U.S.

 

Most commonly used adjectives related to Kim Jung-Un and North Korea

 

Most commonly used adjectives related to President Moon and South Korea

New UW Study on Russian Twitter Trolls in U.S. Media

This past week, my research team published a study on news media's use of tweets written by Russia's Internet Research Agency (a copy of the study can be found here).

We also wrote a parallel article with Columbia Journalism Review.

Importantly, we show that Russian tweets conveying stereotypical partisan beliefs were picked up by a variety of mainstream and partisan news outlets. We are particularly critical of news stories that use "strings of tweet" to represent the vox populi (voice of the people). Unlike the more traditional "man on the street" interviews, tweets used in news stories (particularly online ones) are difficult to verify.

However, as shown by the (admittedly shallow) penetration of IRA tweets, it is still important for journalists to verify these Twitter users to the best of their ability. Journalists can do so by corresponding outside of the tweet-o-sphere (e.g., email), trying to look up the user's name on a search engine, or by looking at that user's past social media history.

Digital, partisan news outlets were particularly susceptible to embedded these IRA tweets. Liberal and conservative organizations both used tweets to convey cheap talk (discourse that supports their position or criticizes their opponents'). If the goal of Russian disinformation in the United States was to increase doubt in the news media system and increase polarization in the civil sphere, the amplification of these messages through partisan outlets represent some measure of success.

 

Why does this matter? Aside from natural concerns about deceptive foreign practices to our public sphere, the appearance of these messages across a broad range of news organizations  (bost partisan and traditional, liberal and conservative) shows how little tweets were checked. It highlights a greater problem: our willingness to promote partisan messages to prove a political point, even if they have little to no journalistic value and are not verified. 

Parkland shooting news coverage bigrams

Below is a bigram of words associated with "students", "victims", "cruz", "shooter", and "student" (darker arrows indicate higher frequency) from a corpus of stories about the Parkland shooting (written within a week of the shooting).

[Note that "student" is often used for the shooter, and "students" is often used for the victims]

Bigrams constructed using rvest. Articles were gathered using MediaCloud from CNN, Daily Mail, Daily Caller, Huffington Post, Fox News, Yahoo News, Daily Beast, Chicago Tribune, Raw Story, NBC News, CBS News, sfgate, Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, The New York Times, and USA Today (n = 75).

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Foreign Diplomacy and Policy

Frankly, I do not know why people are so surprised by Trump's recent "shithole" remark

For those who are unfamiliar, President Trump recently expressed frustration that immigrants were more likey to come from "shithole" countries like Haiti and "Africa" (presumably, countries within the continent Africa), rather than countries like "Norway." Washington Post broke the story.

However, this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. President Trump's generally negative perception of countries in the Global South (as it was meant to represent), and of diplomacy in general, is well documented (here, here, and here). His "foreign policy" is guided by his campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," focusing only on policies which should benefit the United States. Coupling his hatred of immigrants and those from developing world (i.e., "shithole" countries), it is no wonder that he prefers immigrants from the "Democratic North."

But one word, or indeed one statement, does not a foreign policy make. It is only the discursive part of a much larger, and more important change in U.S. foreign policy. In 2017, we have seen a drastic decline in foreign aid-- a result of Trump's "America first" campaign. His upheavals of U.S. foreign policy appear unplanned and surprising, even to the Defense or State Department. 

This "America first" campaign does not necessarily mean an isolationist strategy, but rather a campaign dominated by U.S. preeminence, rather than U.S. sympathy. This is manifest destiny in its ugly, modern form. Devoid of ethics, human decency, and true American values. President Trump saying "shithead countries" is not just an example, but a consequence of his overall foreign policy strategy, which has far more tangible effects than a statement said in an intra-state meeting. Charity, to Trump, is for "suckers," and thus, minor things like "human rights" are soundly disregarded.

For example, consider the Trump Administration's recent push for easing export rules regarding U.S. guns sold overseas (broken by Reuters, reported by many others). This is meant to make U.S. weaponry more competitive against those developed by other countries. The U.S. is already a leading provider of weapons exports, 80% of which go to developing countries

The underlying rationale for these eased regulations is a classic Republican goal: to increase jobs in the United States (nevermind that full unemployment is still not 0% unemployment). This includes sales to "shithole" countries like Nigeria, to fight Boko Haram, countries of interest like Saudi Arabia, and allies like Taiwan. In fact, arms sales appear to be the primary strategy of President Trump's foreign policy. After all, no one wants to go up against the person (or country) who sells them their weapons.

But it is important to keep in mind the greater cost of these short-sighted policies. In focusing on arms sales and depending on increasing conflict to boost the U.S. economy, President Trump's foreign policy also paves the way for alternative state leaders to usurp the United States' status as the global hegemon. In particular, China has found Trump's foreign policy to be an open door of opportunity. Such consequences can impact the United States longer than Trump's term in office. 

In other words: Trump's "shithead" comment is not surprising, and is indeed consistent, with his arms-heavy, hard-power heavy brute-force foreign policy strategy. Regardless of whether the United States comes out first or not, it doesn't matter so long as we think the U.S. should.