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Week in Review: February 1, 2019

Harris-Warren-Sanders

Kamala Harris (violet), Bernie Sanders (peach) and Elizabeth Warren (blue) are the candidates that Twitter continues to talk about. As the overall volume of Harris’ tweets continues to rise, Bernie is passing benchmarks set by Harris just a few weeks ago. The race is on. And people are talking about it.

The daily breakdown tells a similar story. Harris gets the lion’s share of mentions, but Sanders and Warren are capable of getting the media attention required to break through.

Daily Candidate Mention Counts from January 20 through January 31, 2019

We see a wide range of political and factual biases this week.

Bias Distribution for Tweets Mentioning 2020 Democratic Candidates During the Week Ending February 1, 2019

Not surprisingly, though, the bulk of users are tweeting left-of-center links that are more or less credible.

Stepping Back

One of the guiding principles at Marvelous AI is that assessing truth requires perspective. The 24-hour news cycle obscures such perspective, as do stream- and attention-based news services. Looking only at the daily up-and-down of fortunes in this battle for attentions would not only miss the point completely, but also exacerbate a problem we have set out to address. Viewed from a weekly perspective, the race is a somewhat stable three-way contest with a number of second-tier contenders. 

Week;y Candidate Mention Counts from December 20 through January 31, 2019

And viewed from a monthly perspective, the race has probably not yet even begun. So this week we will start taking a closer look at what people are actually saying about the candidates.

Top 5 Retweets

Since we capture retweets, one of the details available for analysis is the number of times they occur in our corpus.1

Most Common Retweets in our Corpus During the Week Ending on February 1, 2019

A few retweets occur extremely often. But there are also a large number that occur thousands of times. We take a closer look at the top 5.

Top Retweet #1

The most retweeted tweet about a potential candidate this week was from former game show host Chuck Woolery.

#1 Most Retweeted Tweet During the Week Ending on February 1, 2019

It mentioned Eric Holder and appealed largely to a right wing audience.

Bias Distribution for Top Retweet #1

Top Retweet #2

The second most common retweet this week was about Bernie Sanders and female candidates.

#2 Most Retweeted Tweet During the Week Ending on February 1, 2019

It was largely recirculated by users with left-of-center links and by users new to the corpus.

Bias Distribution for Top Retweet #2

Top Retweet #3

The third most common tweet this week was an attack on Kamala Harris.

#3 Most Retweeted Tweet During the Week Ending on February 1, 2019

It was shared by users with right-of-center link patterns. Many of them are extremists.

Bias Distribution for Top Retweet #3

Top Retweet #4

The fourth most retweeted tweet this week is from another celebrity. This time actor James Woods is associating the chaos in Venezuela with Bernie Sanders’ politics.

#4 Most Retweeted Tweet During the Week Ending on February 1, 2019

Of course, this also appealed to a largely right-wing audience that included some extremists.

Bias Distribution for Top Retweet #4

Top Retweet #5

The fifth most common retweet in our corpus this week contains video of Hillary Clinton weighing in on the role of sexism in the treatment of her 2016 candidacy and the 2020 candidacy of Kamala Harris.

#5 Most Retweeted Tweet During the Week Ending on February 1, 2019

This tweet was shared mostly by users new to our corpus and by left-of-center users.

Bias Distribution for Top Retweet #5

Sources Being Shared

We are also tracking the specific sources linked in each of the tweets in our corpus.

Number of Times a Source was Linked in our Corpus During the Week Ending on February 1, 2019

The most frequent this week was youtube.com and the second was yahoo.com. Drilling down into each of those is an exercise for a later date.

I Love My Freedom (dot org)

The third most frequent is ilovemyfreedom.org. I had never heard of this source, so I decided to drill down for more detail. Media Bias Fact Check certifies them as a questionable site with an extreme right bias.

Media Bias Fact Check Rating for ilovemyfreedom.org

And this translates directly into our bias distribution plot for users that link to them.

Distribution of Tweets Linking to ilovemyfreedom.org During the Week Ending on February 1, 2019

Certainly the stories that were popular this week are reflective of this rating.  The most heavily circulated story is vague fear-mongering about Bernie Sanders and the Soviet menace.

#1 Most Linked ilovefreedom.org Story During the Week Ending on February 1, 2019

And the second story is an attack on Eric Swalwell, motivated by his prominent role on the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

#2 Most Linked ilovefreedom.org Story During the Week Ending on February 1, 2019

Users tweeting links to ilovemyfreedom.org mostly talked about Eric Swalwell, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Mention Counts in Tweets Linking to ilovefreedom.com During the Week Ending on February 1, 2019

Next week we will start taking a closer look at the trends in language usage associated with tweets mentioning each of these candidates.

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  1. Proportionate to, but not identical to its actual retweet count

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