Social Media, The Immigration Debate and Presidential Candidates

Waving American Flag

Phil Burch Phil Burch, Former Contributor

As 2015 continues to wind down, the United States finds itself in full “Dog and Pony Show” mode for the 2016 election. Despite being about 130 days until the Iowa Caucus and 415 days to the General Election, it feels like Election is imminent – especially on social media.

One of the key features of this election cycle has been (obviously) the rise of Donald Trump as the leading candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination. While some political operatives have been citing that his bombastic style will be his undoing, they have also been so far incorrect in predicting his ‘demise’.

In order to better understand why Mr. Trump has had electoral staying power, I decided to take a look at the impact that immigration has had in this election cycle.

Because citizens that subscribe to right wing ideology and left wing ideology speak about immigration very differently in the US, I decided to use very different queries within Sysomos MAP to try to see what type of conversations are out there.

I took this approach so we could understand the type and volume of conversations using two ways to describe the same issue.

For the Right Wing conversation, I used various forms of these statements: “illegal immigrant”, “illegal alien”, “illegal immigration”, “illegals”, etc. For the left wing conversation, I looked at terms like “immigration reform”, “path to citizenship”, “dream act”, etc.

Republican Presidential Poll Numbers And Immigration Mentions

The red (illegal immigration) and blue (immigration reform) sections of the graph show the pure number of mentions for both of these queries since December 2014. I also used Polling data from CNN for Ben Carson (yellow line), Jeb Bush (green line), and Donald Trump (orange line) to help provide further context to the chart.

Obviously, there is a substantial spike after July 1st (denoted by the black line on the graph). This black line represents the day that Kate Steinle was killed in San Francisco, CA.

This event has had a major impact on the election and the social volume certainly reflects this as well.

Furthermore, Ms. Steinle was killed just 2 weeks after Mr. Trump controversially stated on June 16th, 2015:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Mr. Trump has since made immigration a central component to his campaign. Quite clearly, the Trump campaign has been able to successfully tap into a segment of the Republican base around the Immigration issue.

I am very interested to see if Mr. Trump will be able to sustain this momentum around the immigration issue, as we get closer to Primary Season.