‘NOW WHAT?’ series kicks off with Election Night social media analysis

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To say that Election Day 2020 has been long anticipated by the American people would be a hilarious understatement, as weeks, months and even years of campaigns, debates and political discussions have led to Tuesday. Once the polls closed on Nov. 3, many people were left to wonder — what happens next? 

To accommodate this, the Humanities Institute of UConn has brought professionals from various disciplines to host a series of sessions titled, “NOW WHAT?” UConn professors and staff members are facilitating themed conversations addressing the election’s implications in various issues and for various groups. Some of the upcoming topics include higher education, American Jews, Latinx youth and emotional wellbeing. 

To kick off the week, the School of Fine Arts Department of Digital Media and Design hosted a live social media analysis session from their Social Media Analytics Command Center. Following a pre-show panel discussion, DMD students actively followed what was trending on all social media platforms and posted their findings on the SMACC Twitter account. 

The panel discussion included both staff and students, with associate professor of digital media business strategies John Murphy moderating the event. Each panelist discussed a different aspect of social media, looking at who and what was being talked about worldwide. 

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Johnstown, Pa. Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

“Twenty-four percent of the conversations surrounding voting have the word ‘fraud,’ ‘voter fraud’ or anything else relating to fears and uncertainties about the voting system,” Rosalie Garcia, a seventh-semester digital media and design student, said. “We can see that Americans are increasingly nervous about the mail-in system in particular because he [Donald Trump] has cut funding for USPS.” 

Christina McDonnell, a seventh-semester digital media and design student, discussed which candidate has been more prevalent on social media.  

“Donald Trump is dominating overall conversation with over 6.2 million results that have been engaged with over five times,” McDonnell said. 

McDonnell said that just because more conversations have been about Trump, this does not mean all conversations have been positive. She explained that sentiment has driven the conversations on social media.  

“There’s a clear edge for Joe Biden in terms of sentiment,” McDonnell said.  

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden waves to the crowd at Miramar Regional Park in Miramar, Fla., Tuesday Oct. 13, 2020. Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP

According to McConnell’s data, over the past 30 days, 913,000 of the conversations surrounding the president have been negative, compared to the 412,000 negative conversations about Biden. 

“Joe Biden realized you can’t beat Donald Trump on social media,” Murphy said. “Let the whole campaign be about Donald Trump. This is a referendum on Donald Trump, and that’s what we’re seeing on the social data.”  

Not all conversations have remained in the United States, as Jeremy Pressman, associate professor of political science, pointed out that many other nations will be watching our election closely. 

“The world has different views about Donald Trump as Americans do,” Pressman said. “We see a split among our allies, but it’s partly related to their relation with the Trump administration.” 

The United Kingdom, for example, favors Biden over Trump by 76%. This is interesting because the U.K. is currently led by the Conservative Party, whose ideology aligns with the GOP. 

The largest driving force behind the presidential campaigns have been the candidates’ character, with the candidates as people being examined more so than the policies they support. 

“It 100% comes down to personality in the presidential race,” McConnell said. “It’s not a norm. Even when you’re looking at specific senate races, those did have key issues.” 

Is this a new trend in American politics? Will a presidential candidate be always judged by their public persona? 

Of the four panelists, three of them believe Joe Biden will be elected president of the United States based off of their collected data. Only time will tell whether such projections will be correct. 

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