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As you may have noticed from past blog posts, we—like many others—have been closely following this year’s presidential campaign in the news, on blogs and across social media. We’ve analyzed media coverage of candidates, identified key campaign issues and even explored how the candidates fare against iconic pop culture topics from the Super Bowl to the death of Prince. With six state primaries in play this week, we knew we wanted to keep an eye on the news, and the data visualizations generated from our media analysis enabled us to home in on some key insights.
No one can deny that the 2016 campaign trail has featured some less-than-historic moments—some might even say, embarrassing—from robotic debate performances and jokes that fell flat to uncomfortable eye rolls taking place behind candidates’ backs. But on Tuesday night, Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton stepped up to the mic at her Brooklyn campaign headquarters and announced to the celebrating crowd, “Thanks to you, we’ve reached a milestone. The first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee.” And people took notice.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an election night if there wasn’t some controversy. Most of the controversy stemmed from the AP’s Monday disclosure and subsequent media coverage that Clinton had already achieved the delegate count needed to make her the presumptive nominee. Some argued that the announcement reduced voter turnout, hurting Bernie Sander’s chances to pick up additional votes. In California, for example, more than 5 million voters hit the polls in 2008 compared to nearly 3.5 million this year. Likewise, states like New Jersey and South Dakota saw significantly fewer voters. In all, Clinton won four of the six primaries. She also proved she has what it takes to win the Latino vote. According to Nate Silver’s blog, fivethirtyeight.com, Clinton lead by an average of 15 percentage points in every congressional district where at least 40 percent of eligible voters are Latino.
The controversy didn't take as two days later Bernie Sanders and President Obama met up, and consequently Obama endorsed Clinton and Sanders vowed to work with Clinton toward party unity.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, was already enjoying presumptive nominee status having outraced his republican rivals. And he continued to lead in the media attention race, eclipsing both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the run-up to Tuesday’s primaries.
Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, not all of that coverage was related to the primaries at hand nor was it all positive. His remarks about the ethnicity of the judge overseeing the Trump University fraud case, Judge Gonzalo Curiel, stirred up a controversy that saw party leaders chastising Trump, even as they endorsed him as the Republican nominee for President. While he may have dominated the media, more than 30 percent of article sentiment related the Trump/Curiel controversy was negative and a mere 5.35 percent was positive.
Moreover, when we looked deeper at the actual articles, it appears that the positive ones, on the whole, expressed that sentiment in defense of Judge Curiel’s reputation rather than as an endorsement of Mr. Trump’s comment. The kerfuffle over the comment ruffled so many feathers that the usually gregarious and off-the-cuff speaker resorted to using a teleprompter despite having said in the past, “I've always said, if you run for president, you shouldn't be allowed to use teleprompters because you don't even know if the guy's smart.” Clearly, Trump experienced a change of heart after he saw the kind of damage that ‘winging it’ can do.
The primaries weren’t only about a seat in the Oval Office. With the upcoming retirement of Senator Barbara Boxer, a democrat, California voters also had the opportunity to vote for who will take her place in the Senate. Unlike most other states, the top two nominees move on to the general election, regardless of party. In the end, Tuesday marked another historic moment when State Attorney General Kamala Harris and Representative Loretta Sanchez, both Democrats, won over voters making it the first time ever that a Republican did not earn a spot on the November ballot since California began direct election of senators in 1914. The results guarantee that the seat is safe for the party and that a woman of color will represent California when the new Senate convenes in 2017.
The primaries are like all the races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. You can look at how everyone performed in the past—even make educated guesses (and wagers) based on win records—but it all comes down to who crosses the finish line first in the race that matters. We’ll keep on analyzing the media; make sure you keep coming back!