As the Ukraine and impeachment issues have played out over the last couple of days, the expected decrease in the sentiment expressed towards the President online is underway. As we have seen in the past, Trump tends to rebound quickly and without damage from these negative changes. But as these decrease and recovery movements add up, it is always interesting to see if a current issue will cause a sustained shift in the President's normal sentiment range online; something that has yet to occur in our monitoring over the past year.
As we monitor the President online, it is clear that the President's base is firm. For example, if we look at the online data over the past summer, we see that while there were plenty of ups and downs in the sentiment measurements of Trump mentions, prior to the Ukraine news, he had yet again, worked his way back to his moderately negative range of -.05 to -0.1 (scale of -1 to +1).
The period that stands out on the graph is the online reaction to the double mass shootings on August 3. Trump's sentiment dropped to its lowest point in the past year, but it took only a week to return to his average range of -.05 to -.1.
Consistently being in a negative range is not ideal for any politician, but it is worthy of note that the President's sentiment, as monitored by Eyesover, was in the same range throughout the 2016 Presidential Election.
These trends align with Trump's average approval rating numbers over the same period. Those numbers have been very consistent over time staying with a 42%-45% range over the past six months, according to RealClearPolitics.
To see more, you can follow our Trump sentiment numbers in real-time at scottrasmussen.com.
Coming out of the Houston Democratic Debate, the frontrunners held their positions in the top three, but we noted that online activity surrounding the candidates in the 4th to 8th positions indicated some changes in positions could be afoot.
Close to two weeks after the debate, the significant post-debate trend that has gained the most attention is Warren’s gains on Biden, but we see some other online trends that look familiar and could be positive for Andrew Yang.
In the debate, Yang and O’Rourke ensured they grabbed the public’s attention with their performances. They registered the second and third most discussion online of the ten candidates, and both had relatively positive sentiment.
After two weeks, it is clear that while both candidates have been able to maintain a large share of the attention in the race measured by their number of mentions, O’Rourke’s focused message on gun control is not being received positively as his online sentiment has fallen to his negative pre-debate levels. Conversely, Yang’s mentions have remained strongly positive over the past two weeks.
Yang’s combination of positive sentiment and a strong volume of mentions is the same trend we saw in early March when Pete Buttigieg’s numbers started to move from almost zero to just under ten percent throughout May and June. Emerson’s recent poll that has Yang at eight percent provide a clue that his campaign might have the same kind of momentum Buttigieg enjoyed in the early summer.
Of course, Buttigieg’s numbers have retreated back to an average of six recently, demonstrating the challenges of maintaining momentum over the long haul.
It remains to be seen if this is a blip for Yang or the start of a longer-term trend, but the recent metrics we see online are moving in the right direction for his campaign.
As the field was reduced to ten in Houston, the top three candidates entered the debate with a firm hold on their front runner positions as both Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg had seen their poll numbers reduced since the July debates. Andrew Yang and Beto O’Rourke came into the debate after a week of considerable media coverage and were positioned to get a bump out of the low single digits with a strong debate performance.
As in the first two sets of debates, Joe Biden was the subject of the highest share of online discussion, but the average sentiment of those discussions was the second most negative of any of the candidates. O’Rourke and Yang put in the performances they needed with both candidates generating strong discussion volumes with positive sentiment. While Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg had the highest sentiment scores overall, they failed to generate many mentions. Julian Castro had the worst night with the lowest overall sentiment on low volume.
As we have for the past two sets of debates, we analyzed comments from approximately one quarter million social media accounts. The nature of real-time, short-text comments means that the vast majority of online mentions focused on the candidates, as opposed to the issues they are discussing. However, we sampled our dataset for comments with specific mentions of candidates along with issues to get an idea of how the public reacted to each of the candidates speaking on the key issues.
1) Gun Control
After he positioned himself as the gun control candidate in the race last week, it was no surprise that O’Rourke generated close to 10x more mentions than the other candidates on the issue Thursday night. The challenge for O’Rourke on gun control is that it continues to result in strongly negative sentiment scores indicating his stance is not overly popular.
Out of the ten candidates, only Sanders, Yang, and Buttigieg were able to generate a positive sentiment score overall on the issue. The lowest average sentiment was found in Cory Booker’s mentions as he has also started to position the issue as a central part of his campaign.
The two most discussed candidates also provided the highest and lowest sentiment scores on the immigration issue. Same as in the first two debates, Biden struggled on immigration with the lowest sentiment on the highest volume, while Yang resonated with the public scoring the highest sentiment with relatively strong volume.
Biden’s strategy of defending the Obama administration has become a problem when the discussion turns to immigration, and it will be interesting to see if he continues with his approach given the challenges it has been causing for him in the debates. The issue also continues to be a problem area for Kamala Harris as she was unable to generate any significant volume despite an improved sentiment score on the issue.
3) Health care
With a strong combination of high sentiment and volume, Elizabeth Warren performed the best on the issue of health care. At the same time, Biden and Klobuchar mentions were decidedly negative, which could be an indication that Medicare-for-all supporters, such as Warren and Sanders, are doing a better job in promoting the plan.
The highest sentiment score was once again earned by Yang, but the debate discussion was dominated by Biden, Sanders, and Warren, leaving the rest of the candidates with relatively low volumes.
1) Second-tier candidates O’Rourke and Yang are outperforming Booker and Buttigieg in making their case to be considered top tier candidates as demonstrated by higher overall volumes of discussion. The noticeable difference between the two is the positivity found in Yang’s mentions compared to the significant negativity found in O’Rourke’s.
2) Biden continues to lead in the polls, but his consistent inability to earn positive sentiment indicates there is a weakness in his numbers that could explain his decreasing numbers in some polls recently.
3) Kamala Harris continues to struggle not only with her overall sentiment but also with the lack of volume on any issue indicating she is no longer resonating with the public in the way she did during the first debate. Similar to recent polls, our analysis shows her sliding into the second tier leaving Biden, Warren, and Sanders as the remaining top tier candidates.
Over the past weekend, Beto O'Rourke captured the attention of both the public and media with his statements on gun control. For a campaign that had been struggling to maintain a strong presence in the race, the timing couldn't have been better.
O'Rourke's comments allowed him to surge past the front runners in the number of online mentions from unique accounts, and maintain that advantage over the Labor Day weekend.
The problem for O'Rourke is that the message wasn't as well-received as he would've hoped. The average sentiment of the mentions driven by his comments was the lowest among the top seven candidates over the weekend.
O'Rourke's gun control messaging succeeded in getting the attention his campaign needed, but it is unlikely going to shift support in a crowded field where many candidates agree on more gun control measures.
Last week's numbers also reflect how Andrew Yang's campaign is gaining momentum. With consistent top-tier volumes and very positive sentiment, Yang has positioned himself as a potential member of the top group of candidates. Conversely, Pete Buttigieg's campaign is struggling to maintain its earlier momentum with his volume of mentions trending lower.