Politics on Twitter – Painting with a Broad Brush

We each have social media platforms that we use and don’t use. I tend to stick to Facebook, LinkedIn, and occasionally Instagram. This week I took to Twitter to the first time and found myself quickly overwhelmed with sheer volume of tweets. Where do I start? Hmm…. Politics!

I can’t be described as a long-term political junkie or even knowledgeable on politics in general or about all of the issues, but the 2016 presidential campaign has drawn me more than ever, and I’ve started to pay attention. Mostly, I listen to Sirius/XM’s POTUS channel, which does a pretty good job at offering an even set up view points, and looking at CNN’s politics site on a daily basis. Both of these sources constantly reference Twitter, and so I decided to start there.

We will start with a tweet from @GOP, the Republican Party’s handle. The tweet reads, “BREAKING NEWS: Sec. Kerry admits that $ from Clinton-Obama Iran deal will end up in terrorists’ hands.” and shows a picture of Secretary John Kerry, with what appears to be a scowl of discontent, sitting next to President Obama, who looks focused, but somewhat worried and tired. The image adds text, “Kerry Admits Money From Clinton-Obama Iran Deal WILL END UP IN THE HANDS OF TERRORISTS.”

The picture itself is worth a thousand words in the context of the tweet. First, the scowl along with the tweet gives me the feeling that Secretary Kerry is frustrated and admitting the fault. “Uh oh!” This absolutely was why the tweet caught my attention. Next, the order of the words in the caption matters greatly. In stating the “Clinton-Obama Iran deal,” the goal is to implicate guilt on Former Secretary and Senator Hilary Clinton first. This makes sense considering she is, at this time, a front-runner for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President. Lastly, the picture is of Secretary Kerry, who was actually in office when the deal was signed in July, where the wording of the post is directing blame at Secretary Clinton and President Obama. The strategy around bringing in Secretaries Clinton and Kerry, and President Obama, seems to have the goal of painting a broad picture that shows foreign policy failure across the Democratic administration’s all into the same post is to paint a picture of broad foreign policy failure.

The GOP is certainly not the only party painting the party with a single brush. The Democratic Party (tweeting at @TheDemocrats) has done this as well. In another tweet, they stated, “With hateful rhetoric about immigrants and Muslims, the ‪#GOPDebate proved once again—the GOP is the party of Trump.” The image shows seven GOP candidates for President, all superimposed with Donald Trump’s hair (this is what caught my attention and made me laugh). In the lower right corner, faintly, there is an elephant trying to balance on a beach ball looking as if it is going to fall off. Here, the post uses strong wording, like “hateful,” linking that verbiage to Donald Trump, and linking the rest of the candidates to that language as well. The image shows five of the candidates smiling, but the images of Governor Jeb Bush, and Donald Trump are different. Governor Bush is looking up and to the right with his mouth open, as if he is thinking. Donald Trump is looks disappointed, sad, and frustrated. While I am not sure what the Democratic Party was going for with the Governor Bush’s face, it seems as if they could have been painting the rest of the candidates, with smiles on their faces, to be happy to be following Trump.

These two examples, one from each party, are examples of using Twitter to paint with a broad brush. Simple, short messages, can paint a very powerful picture and a broad brush across an entire party. One question that I have as we go forward is whether these posts attract people that already side with one party over the other, or whether they actually sway opinion in one direction or the other. To answer this, we would better need to understand who was following @GOP and @TheDemocrats, and what their political stances, or party affiliations were.

Until next week – keep your brushes painting.

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2 Responses to Politics on Twitter – Painting with a Broad Brush

  1. sydhavely says:

    Quite insightful and comprehensive, Geoff. You have done a deep dive into these tweets and come up with heady conclusions or at least observations. Well done!

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