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Published September 21st 2012

Social Media Shows Founding American Values at the Heart of the Presidency Battle

Brandwatch data highlights the importance of ire on both sides of the electoral divide.

The level of vitriol in US politics is running high with 46 days remaining on the campaign trail.

Partisanship and polarized politics tend to be the norm in times of economic hardship but the Presidential election has an undercurrent of bile that may yet define this particular White House race.

Last night’s scuffles at Florida rally perhaps came as no surprise but are such scenes expected to follow elsewhere before November 6? Brandwatch data suggests that fighting an angrily defensive campaign is growing in popularity.

Analysis of conversation posted about the election on social media in the US over the past month reveals a high proportion of disparaging content.

It has long been the case that politics of any ideological bent or nationality has been fought on a basis of discrediting the opposition, but the negativity of tweets posted across the US remains starkly high.

Critical Twitter content provided a far greater share of conversation than supportive updates, almost half (49%) across all states and policy issues over the last 30 days (see figure 1).

Recent comments by both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have further served to emphasise this trend, from the top down.

Social media users regularly quote their chosen candidate within content attempting to damage the campaign of the adversary and this may trickle down further, determining the style of tweets and standardising a vocabulary of wrath.

Community managers for both parties regularly tweet about ‘truths’ or ‘distorted facts’ peddled by the opposition. Similarly in the wider media, outlets such as Fox News and the revered, and reviled, Rush Limbaugh Show could be contributing to the bitterness.

Twitter authors regularly address or cite such news providers and polemicists and are often critical of perceived media bias.

What this analysis says about the American psyche remains debateable, although elements of the battle may emanate from the foundation of the Union and the roots of what it means to ‘be’ American.

Social media users are regularly critical of Barack Obama by citing rights that are visible at the forefront of the Constitution, damning the President for apparently threatening individual freedom of speech, the right to bear arms or encroaching government through entitlements and Medicare.

Similarly, the Romney campaign has been denounced by tweeters for its increasingly vocal libertarianism and ‘divisive’ tactics at a time when unity is seen as crucial to economic and social recovery by many Democrat voters.

When viewed in the wider context of a creaking economy, continually high unemployment, a struggle among many voters to make ends meet, and a widely perceived threat to the values of many Americans, it is perhaps unsurprising that the language of this campaign radiates venom.

A bad week for Mitt?

Perceived gaffes by the Republican candidate have dominated recent headlines across the US. Suggestions that “Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace” proved far from unpopular with voters, with social media polls revealing a significant amount of support for Romney from pro-Israeli contributors and wider elements of the right wing.

Leaked views about the “47%”, however, threaten to stop the campaign in its tracks. Mitt has fallen behind in the key battleground state of Ohio, according to Brandwatch data, over the past seven days despite being marginally ahead over the previous month.

Similarly, Obama now holds a healthy lead on jobs and employment, a hugely significant policy area in determining the destination of the presidency. Have the events of the past few days cast the dye ahead of November 6?

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