Which 2020 Candidate is the Best at Twitter?A Data Analysis of the 2020 Democratic Candidate Twitter AccountsMichael TaubergBlockedUnblockFollowFollowingMay 30Photo by George Pagan III on UnsplashThe contest for the 2020 Democratic party nomination will be fought in many arenas.
Before the first debates in a month, before the campaign rallies in key states, and even before prime time TV interviews, the fight for the nomination has begun on Twitter.
Each of the major Democratic candidates has a signifiant Twitter.
With these accounts, each candidate has the means to directly communicate to voters, the media, and the world.
After all, we’ve seen that carefully crafted tweets can change narratives in the real world.
With this motivation in mind, I collected all of the tweets from 11 of the top Democratic candidates for president.
Many of these contenders are sentators and have separate Senate Twitter accounts, so in total 14 accounts were analyzed.
With this data, I was able to see which candidates are best positioned to use this powerful platform in the 2020 race.
Twitter StatisticsFollowersThe candidate with the most Twitter followers is definely Bernie Sanders.
Between his senate (@SenSanders) and personal (@BernieSanders) accounts, Sanders has over 17 million followers.
No doubt some of these overlap, but it goes to show that his 2016 campaign creative a massive social media following.
In terms of followers, Elizabeth Warren’s senate account is a distant third, while Cory Booker, Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris are also followed by multiple millions of people.
The follower count can best be seen as measure of the potential influence of a candidate on Twitter.
The actual effectiveness of a large following depends on how good the candidate is at communicating online.
Number of TweetsIf a follower count is like potential energy, then the number of tweets issued is analogous to kinetic energy.
In this respect, Andrew Yang is the most energetic and also the most prolific of the 2020 candidates.
With almost 3000 tweets in 2019, Yang uses social media far more than his peers.
He is the one contender who probably leverages this medium to it’s full potential.
Behind Yang, Elizabeth Warren and then Kamala Harris are the politicians who tweet the most.
Far behind these is the leader in the polls Joe Biden.
Biden only has 147 tweets in 2019.
In Twitter as in real life, Biden’s campaign strategy seems to be to keep a low profile.
Most LikesIf we add up all of the likes that each candidate got on Twitter in 2019, Kamala Harris comes out on top with Elizabeth Warren a distant second.
However, if we plot these likes over time, we see that most of Harris’ support came in February when she first announced her campaign.
In contrast, Elizabeth’s Warren’s like count has been steadily increasing.
This is one reason that I think Warren might have the best shot at the nomination.
Her momentum is still growing.
If we were to divide all those likes by the number of twitter followers that each candidate had (this normalizing them), then we’d see that Andrew Yang and Pete Buttigieg come out on top.
Among all the candidates, their followers seem to be the most engaged.
Retweets and Engagement SpikesAnother useful measure of Twitter engagement is the ‘retweet’.
Retweets are what spread messages across the network are likely the best indicator of a tweet’s success.
The retweet plot looks almost identical to the one for likes.
As with likes, we see spikes of engagement in May for most candidates.
I submit that this is due to the passage of the bills limiting abortion in Alabama and Georgia.
Especially among the woman candidates, these laws have provided constant Twitter fodder lately.
Bernie Sanders has also done a good job of getting in front of this issue, while Joe Biden has not.
Below is a plot of the number of tweets with the word ‘abortion’ in it, per candidate.
Most of these tweets are from the past month.
Kirsten Gillibrand more than any other candidate prioritizes woman’s issuesTwitter StyleBeyond looking at the statistics associated with a candidate’s Twitter usage, we can also look at the content.
By investigating the text of each tweet we can see that different themes emerge with each nominee.
Joe BidenJoe Biden’s is selling himself as the anti-Trump.
As such, it’s not surprising that his most popular tweet — the most liked tweet of any candidate — is an attack on the President.
Specifically Biden tweets argue that he can return America to its “core values”.
In one tweet, Biden says “We choose hope over fear, truth over lies, and unity over division.
” In another he contrasts these values with the President.
Creating a word cloud of the most common terms in Biden’s tweets, we see common references to “country”, “America”, and the “nation”.
His campaign seems fueled by vague promises to return things to a better past.
Joe Biden Word CloudBernie SandersBernie Sanders is a firebrand both on and off social media.
His most popular tweets tend to pick fights with Republicans, whether over abortion or Ilhan Omar.
Bernie also talk about the “country”, but through the lens of its ‘people’ rather than its values.
In fact, ‘people’ is the most common word used in his tweets.
The other key word he uses is ‘health’, as healthcare is the key issue in his campaign.
Bernie Sanders Word CloudElizabeth WarrenElizabeth Warren is among the more in-depth storytellers on Twitter.
Her top 3 missives in 2019 are all long and detailed.
They tackle issues ranging from violence against women (Ilhan Omar) and inequality (wealth tax) to abortion.
In the latter case, she is particularly compelling, explaining why the laws in Georgie and Alabama are so harmful.
Like Bernie Sanders, she focusses on the ‘people’, but with a greater emphasis on the ‘fight’ for them.
She also focusses more on ‘families’ than Sanders does.
Elizabeth Warren Word CloudKamala HarrisLike Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris has also made abortion and attacks on Trump key planks of her campaign.
Her most popular tweets reflect this.
For me though, Harris doesn't seem as at ease with Twitter as Warren.
Her tweets tend to be less complex and somewhat lacking in emotion.
I suspect Harris’ background as an attorney makes her careful with her words and unwilling to take linguistic risks.
Here most commonly used words are the same as most politicians, “must” and “will”.
Kamala Harris Word CloudPete ButtigiegPete Buttigieg tweets less often than his opponents, but when he does, he is very effective.
His most popular tweets are a mix of outrage and fun stories — a dynamite combination on social media.
More than anything, Buttigieg’s Twitter persona reflects that of a nice guy.
For instance, he seems to use the word ‘thanks’ a lot.
Buttigieg is also a sort of anti-Trump, but one with less baggage than Biden and less ideology than Bernie (see his emphasis on ‘community’ instead of ‘workers’).
His word cloud is below.
Pete Buttigieg Word CloudSentimentOne last way to measure the content of candidate’s tweets is to calculate how positive they are.
Using the sentimentR library, I was able to compare the average sentiment of the candidates tweets to see who sounded the most positive.
As I’ve noted before, Andrew Yang is the most positive of all the 2020 candidates.
Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg also tend to use a positive tone when communicating on social media.
In contrast, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders are more likely to use negative language.
Finally, Joe Biden strikes a mostly positive tone, but one which is less optimistic that Buttigieg.
This seems about right to me and Twitter sentiment reflects the general mood associated with each campaign.
Final ThoughtsI personally think that in the age of social media, winning elections also means communicating well online.
In this respect, we see that the candidates all have different strengths.
Bernie Sanders has the most followers.
Kamala Harris has the most likes.
Elizabeth Warren has the most momentum, and Joe Biden has the greatest ability to draw attention to a single tweet.
Come 2020, we’ll see which candidate presses these advantages most effectively.