A significant share of the social-media conversation about this election is devoted to Policy topics, and that’s a bit of a surprise.
When we launched our Three P’s analysis we had no idea what the results would be. For decades, it’s been conventional wisdom that pure Politics - the obsession with who’s up and who’s down known as the "horse race" - dominates the election conversation, because the mainstream media are obsessed with it.
There’s also a long-held belief that the electoral process has been transformed by the culture of celebrity, making Personality a major factor.
This loser in all of this was Policy - not enough talk about the real issues at stake in the election, such as health-care, education and foreign policy.
We wanted to see if the rise of social media are resetting the balance. When you give citizens their own megaphones, which of the P’s do they emphasize?
So far, the answer is all three, with the balance constantly shifting, depending on events. Our analysis reveals that Politics generally has had the largest share of the social conversation. And Policy, somewhat unexpectedly, has typically been in second place. But as the chart shows, for the last several weeks the three elements of the conversation have been in constant flux, due largely to the debates.
Shortly after the first debate, Policy spiked due to a much-discussed rise in employment levels - a shift we analyzed in an earlier post. During the vice-presidential debate, Personality became Topic A when much of the social commentary focused on Joe Biden’s aggressive debating style (see our post here).
Now we’ve added the second presidential debate to the chart, showing how that very policy-focused discussion - ranging from women’s issues to Libya to the federal deficit - drove a new spike in the Policy piece of the conversation. Those issues (particularly the Libya question) echoed for a day or so afterwards, keeping Policy on top. Then the trend shifted back to Politics.
Nonetheless, going into Debate Number Three, the debate season had prompted notable levels of social-media discussion about Policy topics, a development we’ll keep watching.