BUFFALO, N. Y. — President’s Trump’s daily Twitter posts have been a calling card of his presidency since taking office. Most of the time his tweets seem to breed argument and division, but a surprising study out of the University of Buffalo finds that both political parties may have much more in common than expected when it comes to the president’s social media presence.
Researchers say their findings indicate that both political parties dislike Donald Trump’s tweets when they insult other people or contain lies. Additionally, both parties approve of tweets that support the military or share condolences. According to the study’s authors, this means that underneath the outrage on both sides that has become commonplace in today’s political climate, conservatives and liberals generally agree when it comes to his social media.
“We were initially a bit surprised, because we had expected to find the opposite, where tweets Republicans liked most were those Democrats hated most,” explains study author Kenneth Joseph, PhD, in a release.
The study originally set out to analyze just how divided American politics have become by examining reactions to Trump’s highly publicized tweets. Researchers say they chose the president’s tweets because while, quite surprisingly, only 8% of Americans follow him on Twitter, more than half of the U.S. population are exposed to his tweets via other forms of media such as news programs.
More than 4,300 tweets posted by Trump between February 2017 and December 2018 were analyzed, and public reactions to those tweets were collected via a survey of hundreds of self-identifying Democrats and Republicans who were asked to rate each tweet using a 1-5 rating system from terrible to great. On top of the survey, researchers also analyzed over 1.8 million Twitter users’ reactions and responses to Trump’s tweets.
Of those 4,300 Trump tweets, 22% contained a false statement, 28% insulted someone, and 16% offered condolences.
There were, however, some differences depending on the targets of Trump’s insults. Republicans liked tweets that insulted Democrats, but reacted negatively to tweets that insulted other Republicans. Conversely, Democrats did not appreciate it when Trump attacked Republicans. Researchers say this shows that the president is only shrinking his own camp of supporters when he chooses to insult Republicans.
Researchers also took note that while insults thrown towards women and members of the press greatly upset Democrats, Republicans did not show a strong reaction either way. This implies that these types of insults are only inciting Trump’s detractors without growing his support base at all.
Regardless of tweets, the study’s authors say that Republicans were more likely to forgive Trump’s actions and less likely to view the president in a negative light.
The study is published in the Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Conference on Web and Social Media.