Monday, May 16, 2016

What I learned analyzing 7 months of Donald Trump's tweets

Donald Trump's Twitter is a running stream of insults, slogans, and media commentary. But since this huge repository of rhetoric is operated by Trump himself, it also offers a glimpse into his unlikely rise.
So I decided to analyze it.
I sifted through more than seven and a half months' worth of @realDonaldTrump tweets posted between October 2015 and today. After filtering out retweets, quotes from other people, and article titles, I ended up with a list of 2,500 tweets. That's 44,231 words, or 263,624 characters, of unadulterated Trumpisms. Here’s what I found.

Trump’s Twitter is overwhelmingly negative in sentiment

The first thing I did was run a sentiment analysis on Trump’s tweets. This tool uses computational linguistics and natural language processing to determine if each tweet expresses a negative, neutral, or positive overall attitude.
Trump's statements break down as follows:
trum-twitter Zachary Crockett / Vox
Nearly half of the Donald's statements are negative in connotation — and the majority of them are outright insults. He especially likes to pester political consultant Karl Rove, whom he’s referred to, in at least 20 tweets, as a "dopey," "foolish," "dumb," and/or "moronic."
Trump seems to have a never-ending reserve of demeaning words. But exactly how sophisticated is his lexicon?
I compiled the 60 adjectives most frequently used by Trump on Twitter. Each is highlighted by its overall sentiment (green = positive; gray = neutral; red = negative).
trump-twitter Zachary Crockett / Vox
Trump describes the things that please him with a a slew of monosyllabic adjectives: "great," "good," "nice." His word choice is repetitious and basic, bearing the enthusiasm of a bored teenage texter.
Trump's negative adjectives tell a different story. With people, places, or things he dislikes, his lexicon magically quadruples.
More than 65% of all adjectives Trump uses are negative in sentiment. Often, the presumptive Republican nominee's Twitter-sphere reads like a gloomy thesaurus: those who disagree with him are "phony," "fraudulent," "unethical," "worthless," or "hostile."

Trump uses more exclamation points than a kid on Christmas morning

In reinforcing his insults — as well as his excitement over things like puppets — Trump is extremely emphatic.
This is made clear by his rather aggressive use of exclamation marks.
trump-twitter Zachary Crockett / Vox
Exclamation points can be found in 1,889 of his most recent 2,500 tweets — good for about 76% of everything he writes. Most typically, he uses them at the end of a sentence, in conjunction with an aforementioned demeaning adjective: "Sad!" "Pathetic!" "Stupid!"
Trump also displays his fervor by typing things in all-caps — otherwise known as "Internet yelling."
In the chart below, I’ve compiled Trump’s most frequently capitalized words. Omitted are abbreviations for time zones, countries and states, and naturally capitalized text (logos, news outlets, AM/PM, etc.).
trump-twitter Zachary Crockett / Vox
Roughly 72% of the time Trump tweets his campaign slogan — "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN" — he floors the caps-lock key.
We are also reminded here that Trump is a consummate salesman: his 20 uses of "CRIPPLED" are all pitches for his book, "Crippled America." Over the past seven months, he’s linked to this book no less than 15 times, pitching it as a "great holiday gift."

Trump tweets about the media WAY more than he tweets about his policies

When he's not busy tweeting exclamation-ridden jibes at Samuel L. Jackson, Cher, or Macy's department store, Trump uses his sizable platform to hound the media.
I did a keyword search of Trump’s tweets, looking for media-related terms like "news", "ratings", "interview", and "TV." Then, I compared these figures to the number of times he tweeted policy-related words like "immigration", "education" and "health care."
trump-twitter Zachary Crockett / Vox
Trump devotes about 3.5 times more tweets to talking about the media than he does to discussing important, big-ticket policy issues.
In particular, he feels the need to aggrandize all of his television appearances. A look at his most commonly-used phrases (or strings of certain words) verifies this.
Not surprisingly, "Make America great again" comes out on top, with 90 instances (not including his 235 uses of the hashtag version, #makeamericagreatagain). But trailing not far behind, at 60 uses — more than "crooked Hillary Clinton" (16) and "I am self funding my campaign" (9) — is the phrase "I will be interviewed."
trump-twitter Zachary Crockett / Vox
After each television appearance, Trump shares a link on Twitter, which is typically paired with a humble-brag about increased ratings, or a putdown of an interviewer he feels misrepresented him.
Oftentimes, Trump will reach out to said interviewer on Twitter and voice his complaint directly.
Lastly, I crawled through Trump’s "@" tweets to determine who he most frequently engages with. Astonishingly, 23 of the 25 people he interacts with the most on Twitter are members of the press. Jeb Bush and Karl Rove are lonely exceptions.
trump-twitter Zachary Crockett / Vox
At times, Trump's disdain for media seems to be more of a personal crusade than a matter of politics. He seems to show no real preference for conservative or liberal outlets, both of which heavily criticize him: on Trump's Twitter, Fox News and CNN are interchangeably referred to  as "great/nice/terrific" and "biased/overrated/unfair."

Shortly before announcing his bid last year, Trump told a political consultant of his plan to "walk away with [the election]." It largely had to do with commandeering the media.
"I’m going to suck all the oxygen out of the room," he reportedly said. "I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off of me."
Trump has engineered his Twitter to do just that — and it's worked.


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