Visualizing Verified Twitter’s Reaction to Robert Mueller’s Investigation

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s now-concluded investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian influence over the 2016 presidential election was obviously a hot topic on Twitter.

More than 400,000 tweets — an average about 600 per day — mentioned the word* “Mueller” since the former FBI chief was appointed to lead the investigation in May 2017, according to a dump (190MB csv) of verified user data pulled from the social network using Python and Twint.

That interest spiked during key news events before skyrocketing on Friday and Sunday, when Mueller concluded the investigation and then the Department of Justice released a letter summarizing the findings:

You can download the data here (190MB csv).

* This data dump, due to my general laziness and day job duties, includes a bit of noise from misspellings of the the German footballer Thomas Müller’s name and some other unrelated “Mueller” tweets — about 60 a day, I would say, on average. You get the idea, though.

[Photo courtesy The (Obama) White House, via Wikimedia Commons]

Trump’s Approval Ratings are Resilient. How Does that Compare Historically?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

Despite all the controversy attached to his presidency, Donald Trump has managed to retain a relatively consistent approval rating in the last two years — especially when compared to predecessors in the modern era.

The president’s approval rating has climbed some in recent weeks after a significant decline in January, reverting to around the average during the last two years.

Perhaps it’s the tribalism in American politics or the fragmented news ecosystem or the president’s skills as a communicator — but, for some reason, Trump hasn’t experienced the wide fluctuations of his predecessors.

He also, of course, remains historically unpopular.

According to Gallup, the president’s rating changes have stayed within a 14 percentage point range.

Other presidents — even those who only served one term — have experienced wider swings in their popularity over time. The late George H.W. Bush, for example, saw his popularity drop from 89% in February 1991 to 29% the following summer, a massive change.

Here are all the presidents, and their popularity ranges, since Harry Truman:

Image courtesy WikiMedia Commons

Visualizing a Year of @realDonaldTrump

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics, Social Media

President Trump thumbed his way through another year in the White House on Twitter, compiling a good (great) collection of 2,930 touts, complaints, defenses and rants.

He left 2018 with this perplexing New Year’s Eve missive extolling the old-fashioned endurance of “Walls” and “Wheels” as one of his last.

As the message shows, the president’s twitter presence lately is crowded by an increasingly evergreen list of grievances (Democrats, Russia, fake news, etc). Still, plenty of his messages actually correspond quite neatly with news events.

Notice how the #maga hashtag, a political rallying cry, disappears after the midterm elections. He talks about The Wall and shutdowns in and around the shutdowns, of course. And he decries Special Counsel Robert Mueller most often around the times his former aides have appeared (and been convicted or pleaded guilty) in federal court.

These examples are obvious when plotted on a timeline with annotation:

Through it all, the president’s audience of followers grew steadily by 10 million users. He now has 56.7 million followers (me included). He’s No. 15 on that measure, according to friendorfollow.com, sandwiched between heavy hitters like @selenagomez and @britneyspears!

During 2018, @realDonaldTrump spread his tweets throughout the days of the week, with the president even finding time on the weekends to sound off:

This large collection of messages, scraped using twint, drew more than 300 million of engagements, with “likes” being most common by far. This one about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a year ago received a whopping 475,000 likes, topping the list.

Here’s how those engagements split proportionally:

Speaking of retweets, there were 57 million in 2018. They came at the rate of 200,000 per day in some months. This popular “they-just-don’t-get-it” mashup of video clips, for example, received more than 110,000 retweets alone in July:

And, finally, as in years past, those messages were a mix of endorsements, promotions, defenses and complaints. Among the more popular keywords (sorry, no word clouds here):

You can download the data as a CSV here. Happy New Year!

Charting the GOP’s Congressional Exodus

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

Another Republican in the U.S. House — Speaker Paul Ryan, no less — announced his intention not to seek re-election in 2018, adding to the number of members leaving ahead of what’s expected to be an unfavorable mid-term environment for the party.

Even before Ryan’s announcement, HuffPost reported that the number of GOP congressmen leaving the chamber, either for retirement or other offices, has hit numbers not seen in decades. His exit is likely to increase that number soon.

This chart shows how the GOP members’ announcements over this cycle have cumulative outpaced their Democratic counterparts:

And here’s a breakdown of retirements, by party, over the years:

China’s Imbalanced Trade with the United States, in Four Charts

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance, Policy & Politics

A trade war could be looming between the United States and China, fueled by President Trump’s fixation on the two nations’ unbalanced import-export relationship.

The trade imbalance between the two countries — which might not hurt the United States that much — stems from the fact that China sells more to us than it buys, essentially.

That’s largely driven by macroeconomic factors, not some malicious intent: China is a low-cost manufacturing powerhouse, and the United States is an economy dominated by domestic consumption.

These charts help explain the $570 billion overall trade relationship between world’s largest economies.

First, here’s how the trade has changed over time. The United States imported $460 billion in goods from China last year. That figure has steadily increased in recent decades as China emerged as Asia’s top manufacturer. Exports from the United States to China, which doesn’t yet have the same per-capita domestic consumption as America, haven’t kept pace (again, not that we should be worried).

Here’s the same data, told with a column chart. It shows trade between the two countries in proportion. About 20% of our trade with China last year, and over recent years, has been from exports. Imports represent about 80% of our goods exchanges, on the other hand.

The resulting balance of trade, or trade deficit in this case, has also grown steadily over the years. These charts show the change, year by year, since 1998. Red bars represent the growing trade deficit in billions of dollars by month.

This measure — the trade balance — varies widely by country. One way to examine the relationship with other countries is to look at the balance in the context of the respective total trade. How much does the balance represent as a percentage of overall transactions, for example?

These charts show that figure for America’s top-40 trading partners in 2008. Blue bars reflect a positive trade balance for the United States. Red bars mean it suffered a trade deficit with a particular country in a given year.

When examined this way, you can see that China isn’t the only country in the world to sell more to Americans than it buys. China’s deficit might be huge — its population and output is quite large — but the trade deficit looks similar to other countries figures when viewed proportionally.

Promo background image courtesy Keith Roper.

Chart: Republican Attacks on the FBI Have Worked, Especially on Republicans

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

HuffPost is out with an interesting poll about the the public’s trust in the FBI, which has been under attack recently for its role in the investigations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Trump and his supporters have been particularly tough on the bureau, and it shows in the polling data.

A slim 51 percent majority of the public say they have at least a fair amount of trust in the FBI, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, down 12 points since 2015. Most of that change comes from Republicans and independents, among whom the percentage saying they trust the agency dropped by 22 points and 15 points, respectively. Allies of the White House have spent much of January ramping up their attacks against the FBI’s Russia investigation.

This chart shows the change:

Chart inspiration via Katie Park. Image courtesy “Brunswyk” via Wikimedia Commons.

Visualizing #NICAR18, Part II

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Uncategorized

I posted recently about the NICAR journalism conference, held this year in Chicago — and it turns out news nerds like to tweet.

To keep track of all the conference chatter, I dumped each mention of the #NICAR18 hashtag using Python, eventually collecting some 4,100 tweets.

I used #nicar18 several times. Others were even more prolific. Here are those with more than 10 uses during the conference:

Next, I created a histogram with average #nicar18 tweet counts by hour for the three full days: Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It shows when people sent the most tweets — and that they apparently took more breaks during lunch and just before the first afternoon sessions began.

The pattern is also clear here in a more granular view of daily tweet counts by hour:

This tweet volume, which only captures people tweeting with the hashtag, was posted by attendees from across the globe. This year’s conference, as I mentioned in the previous post, had record-breaking attendance: more than 1,200.

Here’s where the attendees came from:

These types of maps are imperfect, of course, especially on mobile. For one, it’s tough to decipher attendance from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Here’s a more focused version (still a little nuclear blasty), if that helps (please note that the scale is different from the map above):

See you next year, NICARians!

Visualizing the News Nerd Conference Known as #NICAR18

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Uncategorized

I’m in the United States this week to attend the annual news nerd conference known as NICAR, a diverse gathering of reporters, editors and developers (and others) focused on storytelling with data.

I look forward to it like Christmas.

I get to return to the United States, see old friends, learn new skills and drink Diet Coke, which is nearly impossible to find in South Korea, where I work as a foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times.

These basic graphics help explain the event, held this year in Chicago.

First, there’s record-breaking attendance* this year:

The event has more than 200 sessions over five days, from the basic use of spreadsheets in news gathering to the construction of complex news applications — and the organizers (who graciously share data about the conference) categorized them by type:

The conference generally has a mix of skills sets and expertise levels, which is evident in the session categories:

There are people here from almost every American state and from numerous countries around the world. My jet lag brain is still working through how to best visualize that, perhaps in a map. I’ll post something soon.

Image courtesy Allen McGregor via Wikipedia Commons.

Jobless Claims at Five-Decade Low

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits hasn’t been this low since Richard Nixon was president, according to new data from the U.S. Labor Department.

The figures suggest a tight labor market in which employers are retaining employees because there aren’t as many available qualified workers, Bloomberg reported:

Overall, the employment picture remains solid, with payrolls continuing to increase and the unemployment rate at the lowest since late 2000. Job growth will help sustain consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy.

Here’s a remix of Bloomberg’s chart, which game me an excuse to finally deploy something with “swoopy” annotation (thanks, Adam!):

Image courtesy @bytemarks via Creative Commons.

How China’s Economic Retaliation Hurt the South Korean Tourism Industry

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance, Social Media

I wrote this week about the one-year anniversary of China’s economic retaliation against South Korea over the THAAD missile system, a defensive weapon designed to stop North Korea’s medium-range missiles.

China objects to it and has been flexing its economic muscle in protest, carrying out an aggressive campaign of economic retaliation that includes sending fewer tourists. In 2017, just over 4 million Chinese visited South Korea, down from roughly 8 million a year earlier after several years of steady growth.

These charts show the effect on the South Korean tourism industry, which has grown to depend heavily on China. This first example helps show China’s increasing share among all tourists who visit South Korea. In 2016, for example, nearly half of all visitors were Chinese — way up from a decade ago:

This chart reflects the annual total visitors by Chinese since 2000. Until last year, annual growth had average nearly 30%, even with the 2015 MERS outbreak in South Korea, which caused hundreds of thousands — likely millions — of Chinese to stay away. You can see how the figure dropped dramatically in 2017:

And, finally, we look at the monthly data, which spikes during peak summer months. The effect of MERS is again evident, as is the significant drop in tourists after the Chinese implemented travel restrictions last March: