It’s up for debate whether social media can predict an election. But a new visualization from Twitter shows that the preponderance of conversations on the social network is aligning with the status of the candidates in the 2016 presidential race.
To no surprise, the one remaining Republican, Donald Trump, leads the pack for the combined data of the most users tweeting about him and the highest engagement on those tweets. The only time Trump slipped in his lead was during a Democratic debate Oct. 13, when Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders took the top spot. But on that day, the Sanders campaign paid to promote the hashtag #DebateWithBernie.
Hillary Clinton and Sanders have gone back and forth in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. Looking specifically at the week before last week's primary in Indiana, Clinton ranked above Sanders in overall conversation nationwide. But Sanders dominated in Twitter conversation in the state of Indiana, and then won the state's primary.
For Twitter, the finding is evidence that political conversation on the network can signify what happens off the site as well. “Twitter is the live pulse of the 2016 presidential election, and we’ve been crunching the numbers to show how the race has unfolded so far,” Miguel Rios, a data science manager for the company, wrote in a blog post.
Indeed, Twitter illustrates the idea that Trump has the American people hooked. Looking deeper at his share of the conversation, there is stark distance between all other candidates and Trump, except for Oct. 13. Trump’s most dominant day on Twitter was March 1, or Super Tuesday, where he won seven states and secured 1,068 delegates.
There were a few moments where other Republican candidates gained momentum on Twitter. For instance, Jeb Bush took second place under Trump during the Sept. 16 Republican debate. Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz also pulled more engagement on Twitter during later debates.
After nearly every Republican debate, Sen. Marco Rubio gained more of the conversation. But in the end, Twitter conversation isn’t everything as he chose to suspend his campaign after losing his home state of Florida.