In 2008, President Obama won votes with “hope” and “change” while John McCain's “maverick” “straight talk” fell short of inspiring the electorate. This year, though both camps have their slogans, the phrases that really seem to be sticking are the ones the candidates have been wielding against each other. The goal? To find a buzzword that sticks long enough to create a lasting association in voters' minds.
Two weeks ago, we reviewed the candidates' Youtube pages to monitor the effectiveness of their overarching campaign messages. This week, we decided to take a look at the shorter labels both camps have been tossing at one another over the past several months to see how pervasive those have been.
Republicans have had four years to labor over the selection of words that they would like us to associate with the president. Socialist, failure, debt, and unemployment are four of the most prominent that the GOP has continued to highlight in recent months.
A snap shot of key anti-Obama labels over the past month, the chart above illustrates how those four buzzwords have been trending on Twitter and in news stories alongside mentions of the president. While “socialist” and “failure” are subjective rather than substantive markers, “debt” and “unemployment” are both hot topics that can be measured and evaluated in a factual manner. Even so, the quantity of Tweets far surpasses news mentions on any of the four topics.
This isn't the case with anti-Romney labels that have been applied by Democrats and the Obama campaign. We reviewed tax returns, outsourcing, out-of-touch, and gaffes as popular words that are negatively associated with Mitt Romney. As the following chart illustrates, all of these labels are also trending on Twitter and in the news. However, what we see is a more proportionate correlation between news and Twitter mentions.
The disparity is interesting for several reasons. For one thing, it seems to illustrate that the anti-Romney labels are more newsworthy, lending them a sense of legitimacy. There were 853 news articles connecting Romney to his political gaffes at home and abroad in the past month, and 1199 media mentions connected his name to outsourcing jobs to workers overseas. Creating negative associations that sway voters against the opposing candidate is a critical campaign strategy, and the fact that the press is doing a lot of the work for Obama is a boon for his reelection bid. It also indicates a job well done on the part of his staff, for targeting key words that easily translate into ample negative press for his opponent. Furthermore, it means that the Obama campaign can minimize negativity and can focus on positive messages like those that shaped his success in 2008. Mud-slinging, while effective, is a common voter complaint.
If the attacks on Romney are driven by the media, the attacks on Obama seem to exist as separate from it. Unemployment is the closest thing to a popular anti-Obama news topic, and the ratio of traditional media mentions to tweets is still low when compared with each of the anti-Romney labels. Still, this means that the negative labels the GOP is aiming to attach to the president are sticking even in the face of subpar press coverage. The associations have been made, and social media users are quick to share them.
Despite the disparities in user-generated versus news-driven content, both camps have been successful at creating negative correlations with staying power. In reviewing several months' worth of Twitter mentions for the hottest topics, it's clear that while conversations ebb and flow over time, the connections are here to stay. However, the sheer volume of social media mentions linking Mitt Romney to unfavorable topics far surpasses the number of tweets criticizing President Obama on top issues.
In February, OhMyGov theorized that the volume of negative Twitter mentions could have been used to effectively predict the outcome of the Florida Republican primary. If we apply that same theory here, the president's reelection chances look better every day.
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