Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Political Smackdown: What does social media say about the parties?

Back to politics...

It is a hot topic and of course, people are curious to hear what is going why not focus on different aspects of the election.  Today, I figured I would go up a level to look at the parties themselves.  We spend a ton of time these days focused on the candidates and the he said, he said of what is going on in a very bloody and inter-partisan Republican race.  But what is happening at the party level.

The questions I had are...

1.  Who is driving the dialogue and are the democrats even "awake" yet?
2.  Is the "red meat" primary awakening the democrats yet?
3.  Who really has the advantage as we head in 2012?
4.  What are some of the high level details driving each party's positive/negatives?

I found those answers...let's discuss them...

I wanted to take a look at the buzz and sentiment comparison for both as well as the changes in net sentiment over the last year.  They are below

I found the data fascinating.  First off, the amount of chatter mentioning Democrats is significantly lower than Republicans.  The buzz difference is at more than a 3:1 ratio for Republicans vs. Democrats.  This is not surprising as all the air time is about what is happening in the GOP, but what you will notice in the table in the bottom is the positive net sentiment the Democrats have since the Republican primaries have gone into formal and full swing.  The net sentiment for the Democrats is now at +8 (out of -100 to +100).  This is nothing to celebrate, but in my experience looking at this data, politics because of its polarity, tends to have net sentiments near 0.  Either way the spread right now between the Republicans and Democrats is at +17.  That is a significant difference.  In addition, for the last 12 months the Republicans have not enjoyed a positive net sentiment month.  The Democrats have 6 months in the positive territory as well as the last 5 months in a row (and the trend is going upward).  I did not delve into whether this is due to positive feelings about the economy or simply because of the toxic rhetoric being used in the Republican primary.  I can look into that next time.  But what it is saying, the Democrats are trending upward.  The Republicans are trending downward.  Not a good sign for a party trying to expand its lead in Congress AND unseat a sitting president.

We can see the illustration of this trend side by side in the chart below for those who are visual...

Next I will show the stacked data for the Democrats and Republicans.  Also below...

What is interesting in the slide above is how razor thing the advantage is between the two parties when measured across a year.  But take it with a grain of salt.  That difference in buzz is also telling.  Democrats have some serious momentum because of the "lack of focus" on their efforts, but if they don't get their people creating more hype that could spell another path to doom for them.  Watching you opponent tear itself to pieces is one strategy, getting you base to get the message out with more louder volume is another that appears to be missing.  But it is true that they are not the focus of the discussion right now.

The last slide I will present is a likes/dislike attribute array on both parties.  It is a side by side comparison of the top 10 likes/dislikes for both.  I have added some color to the chart that groups some of the insights I see in the data.  See below

In my opinion, the data is telling.  You will see that there little that is unique about the positives for both.  I have color coded what I consider to be unique naturally surface insights from the NLP.  You can see that majority of the likes for both center around the discussion of them "winning" or "controlling" the dialogue in the government.  This is no surprise.  Both parties want control and believe their party will get it.  Sure the Republicans are saying they want to beat Obama but that is nothing new.

On the Democrat side there are two unique things being discussed.  I think they would be thrilled to learn that they are considered both Powerful and Responsible.  Without looking deeper into the data, this suggests their brand is gaining momentum for their continued efforts to "help the middle class".  Again, I can dig in at another time.  The issue is that these unique attributes are #5 and #9.  There is work to do but it seems their message is resonating with those discussing the party.

On the Republican side, there are three things being uniquely mentioned.  #6, #9, and #10 we see "simple", "care about", and "better job".  Like the Democrats they are not top 5 likes for the party but they do center around some interesting things.  For one, the comment simple suggests that the Republican economic platform is viewed as more straightforward.  Regardless of party, they do talk a lot about simplifying things like the Tax Code.  As for care about and better job, this suggest that folks do have some level of connection with the Republicans around being a party that is focused on the individual (their general message) as well as doing a better job overall.  Who really knows if these positives are very definitive.

What is more telling are the dislikes...

There are distinct themes surface for both parties.  I have used colors to capture some general categories across both parties.  The dark red is representing very strongly expressed attributes focused on the damage the party is creating.  The bright red are expressions of opinion about that party.  The lighter red is about control of the playing field (in the positives there was no differentiation here, but in the negative there are).  And the light pink is focused on things that are simply mentioned on both sides.

Let's focus on the dark red (rather than party by party).  For attributes that represent perceived damage, the Republicans are definitely not paying attention to the American people.  Four of the top 10 dislikes about the Republicans are focused on them literally hurting the U.S. economy.  I have read much about how the Republican's focus on cutting without raising revenue is starting to have an impact.  In addition, the constant dialogue about the 1% and protecting it seems also to potentially play out here.  I would say regardless of why, the fact that #4, #6, #9 and #10 all fit this "damage" category is a real issue that cannot be ignored.  With the extended primary and continued red meat, I would say Republicans are damaging themselves without the Democrats throwing a punch.

On the Democrat side, there is other danger.  Their #1 dislike is Kill it.  If you look more deeply at why, it seems that Democrats seem to be getting labeled as simply killing things they don't like.  People seem to be saying that Democrats simply stop it if they don't agree.  I believe this is about things like healthcare that people consider to be forced through.  They are forcing their will and sometimes that is being viewed badly.  They are also viewed as corrupt.  Not a good word to be associated with.  Especially, when the Republicans are not considered corrupt.  This is a fundamental issue being expressed.  When you are corrupt, you are not trusted.  This is bad.

The darker/light red for the Democrats is a more lopsided discussion about them losing the election and control of the bodies of government.  The telling perception here is that the Democrats are "losers".  This sort of says when they win, they win because the Republicans are trying to hard to push their extreme agenda.  Call it putting them in their place.  That being said, the democrats always have this label of losing.  It is stated here.  What is interesting about this insight is as the vitriol continues by the Republicans the risk of the back lash is growing.   Couple that with a growing economy and that spells trouble.  While the Democrats are perceived losers, the cantankerous discussion is dangerous.

the bright red.  Well it is Republican unique.  It is all about dissension and the negative impact it is having on their efforts this election season. Being called weak as #1 isn't a good thing.  But desperate?  Uh oh.  It stinks of the crazy mud slinging going on.  For crying out loud, Santorum continues to say things very exteme and then back tracks with an aw shucks mentality.  Even if you agree with his statements, you have to at least appreciate that the extremeness of them does polarize and plays into these emotional expressions of being weak, desparate and making it harder.

So what does it all are my shortened thoughts

1.  The Republicans are getting blamed for the economy now because their stubborness isn't about fixing things but holding them up.
2.  The Democrats are perceived as losers right now and need to show more strength and give a better case as to why they will not be.
3.  The GOP better finish this debacle of a primary season or they run the risk of alienating folks over to the Democrats for fear of extremism.
4.  The Democrats better get their base energized soon.  The 3:1 difference in buzz says Democrats are asleep right now waiting to take action.  Get them energized now and the opportunity to create a tidal wave is there.
5.  The Democrats need to pull out their stat sheets and let people know how all that stimulus actually did something.  They could start by showing in the first $787B how much was paid back and how much interest they got.  It shows their spending led to ROI.
6.  Stop the red meat is killing you and your persona.  It may be too late.

This election will not go quiet into the night..... 

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