US Politics: top issues from the Republican blogosphere

In this election year, we thought it would be interesting to poll our brand new US politics tribes to get a sense of how the debate is shaping up within the Democratic, Republican and Third Party communities and in the American political blogosphere in general. Periodically, we’ll take a few snapshots of the hot topics in those communities and see how they evolve.

As the Republicans are in the process of choosing their candidate for the presidential race, let’s dive into the Republican blogosphere and see what the metrics are telling us about the campaign.

1. Top concerns expressed in the Republican tribe week-to-week

1.1. Weekly expression clouds

Looking back at the weeks leading up to Super Tuesday, we took a weekly snapshot of the posts published in the GOP-leaning community and identified the top concerns expressed in the tribe since the end of January. Here are the expression clouds for the last five weeks:

  • week 1: Jan 30-Feb5
expression cloud for Jan 30-Feb06, by eCairn
Word cloud of the top concerns expressed in the GOP-leaning community from Jan 30 to Feb 6 2012.
  • week 2: Feb 6-Feb 12
expression cloud for Feb 06-13, by eCairn
Word cloud of the top concerns expressed in the GOP-leaning community from Feb 6 to Feb 13 2012.
  • week 3: Feb 13-Feb 19
expression cloud for Feb 13-20, by eCairn
Word cloud of the top concerns expressed in the GOP-leaning community from Feb 13 to Feb 20 2012.
  • week 4: Feb 20-Feb 26
expression cloud for Feb 20-27, by eCairn
Word cloud of the top concerns expressed in the GOP-leaning community from Feb 20 to Feb 27 2012.
  • week 5: Feb 27-March 04
expression cloud for Feb 27 to March 3, by eCairn
Word cloud of the top concerns expressed in the GOP-leaning community from Feb 27 to March 3 2012.

1.2. Week-to-week comparison

Next, we compared the top expressions from one week to the next to see which topics became popular and which ones disappeared from the radar.

From week 1 to week 2, the following topics gained significant traction in the GOP-leaning tribe: religion (with mention of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and of an “attack on religious freedom”) and birth control (with expressions such as “access to birth control”, “free birth control” and “contraception coverage”). Two events which occurred in week 2 received a lot of attention that week: the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and Whitney Houston’s death, before losing momentum the week after.

Among the topics getting a lot more coverage in week 3 than previously are the economy, and specifically gas prices, unemployment (“longest stretch of high unemployment” is a frequent expression that week), and taxation (with the acceleration of the debate around the “payroll tax cut”). The debate on religion gained ground that week again, with more mentions of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and of Santorum’s criticism of Obama’s “phony theology”.

Week 4’s conversations were concerned with the burning of copies of the Koran on a military base in Afghanistan, prompting an official apology (“Obama’s apology”). Commentaries on the campaign focused even more than the week before on gas prices, but less on unemployment. The debate on religion saw a new concern emerge in the “separation of church and state”. The release of the movie “Act of Valor” made it a hot topic that week.

Last week (week 5), most of the hot topics from the previous week lost momentum and were overshadowed by Andrew Breitbart’s death. Other popular topics last week included Obama’s birth certificate, Sandra Fluke and Rush Limbaugh.

2. Share of voice of the broader issues expressed in the Republican tribe

Let’s take a step back and look at the broader picture. The top expressions used in the GOP-leaning tribe point to a number of general issues. Despite the fluctuation in the attention they get from one week to another, these issues seem to make up the bulk of the political debate in the tribe. Among them are unemployment, education, religion, and health care (and specifically birth control).

Interestingly enough, religion and birth control have taken center stage in the political debate among Republican-leaning bloggers since the end of January. The two topics became closely related in mid-January in the debate around the “contraception mandate” of the Affordable Care Act, requiring that all employers, initially including religious institutions, provide insurance coverage for birth control to their employees.

2.1. Religion

Since then, there have consistently been more conversations about religion than about unemployment (in orange). Our graph also shows that religion (in blue) has been given more attention than education (in green) throughout.

trend unemployement (GOP) vs education (GOP) vs religion (GOP)
Share of voice for unemployment, education and religion in the GOP-leaning tribe in the last six months.

2.2. Birth control and health care

As we can see in our next chart, birth control became a hot topic across the board at the end of January. The spike in the share of voice, however, is more visible in the GOP tribe than in the other two tribes: the share of voice of birth control in the GOP tribe (in orange) jumps from 1 or 2% until the end of January to as high as 7.5% in the second week of February, when it reaches a mere 4.1% at its highest in the Democratic tribe (in green).

trend birth control (GOP vs Dems vs Third Party)
Share of voice for birth control in the Republican, Democratic and Third Party tribes in the last six months.

It is also worth noting that the debate about health care largely revolves around birth control. Over the past month, almost two thirds of the 6000 some conversations concerned with health care in general have actually been about birth control, as shown in the following pie chart.

share of voice for birth control (GOP) and health care (GOP)
Share of voice for birth control and health care in the GOP-leaning tribe for Feb 2012.

Who is the candidate the most in tune with these concerns? Will this candidate be the Republican nominee for the presidential election?

If you would like to see how we did this analysis, contact us and request a demo.

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