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!

Visualizing the Historical Relationship Between White, Black Unemployment Rates

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

President Trump was right last month when he bragged that black unemployment rate was at a historical low. The rate in December was 6.8 percent, the lowest it’s been since 1972 (though it ticked back up nearly a percentage point last month).

But the president’s statement excluded some important context about the historic movement of this rate by race and ethnicity. I’ve tried to explain in these graphics.

First, here are four rates — all groups, black, Hispanic and white — since Ronald Reagan was in office. The early 1980s, as you can see, were pretty rough. Things have gotten better, both in terms of the rate during recessions and recoveries, and all groups have improved together as a pattern since the Great Recession:

Whether you believe a president can have any short-term effect on unemployment or not, a key point is that these rates rise and fall together. They are quite strongly correlated. In about 90 percent of the months since 1980, for example, a relationship existed between movement in the white and black rates. This correlation is slightly less strong under Democratic presidents, for whatever reason:

Even though the black rate is relatively low today, it has historically been about 2-2.5 times higher than the white rate.

Image courtesy Wikimedia/U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

The Curious Case of South Korea’s Vanishing Washing Machine Exports

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance, South Korea

The Trump administration last week announced that it planned to impose higher fees, known as tariffs, to countries that export washing machines and solar panels the United States.

The tariffs, prompted by complaints from American companies who feel disadvantaged by global trade, were applied across the world — even though they seem primarily aimed at two nations who dominate the market: China and South Korea.

That’s in part because both countries have moved their manufacturing around to avoid such duties. In South Korea’s case, the change in strategy by companies like LG and Samsung seems remarkably obvious in trade data — on washing machines, in particular.

A bit of background: The U.S. Census Bureau keeps detailed data on specific product exports, by country, to the United States. The data reflect the total export value by year and national origin — where the ships came from, essentially — not by companies’ home countries. So Samsung products made in China and exported from China look like Chinese exports.

This graphic shows one possible scenario for how the strategy played out. Washing machine exports from South Korea to the United States dropped dramatically, for example, after a complaint filed in late 2011 by Whirlpool, an American manufacturer. A year later, exports from China increased significantly (and have since fallen, perhaps reflecting other shifts in manufacturing locations, such as Southeast Asia, Mexico and/or the United States itself).

The Times’ story noted the South Korean companies’ concerns:

Samsung and LG described Whirlpool’s case as a protectionist grab designed to shut out products that American consumers find more attractive, and argued that such restrictions on their products would hurt consumers by raising prices.

The export change appears to be because South Korean washing machine companies moved their operations to China during 2013 — and later the the United States — perhaps in an effort to avoid the complaints or looming tariffs. Or because the change was good business for the companies.

Anyway, the data seems pretty obvious:

Mapping Where ‘Americans’ Live

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Policy & Politics

Back during the Republican primaries, The Upshot published an interesting short post called the Geography of Trumpism. The reporters back then analyzed hundreds of demographic variables, by county, in an effort to determine which ones might be predictive of electoral support for the eventual GOP nominee.

Think: What’s the rate of mobile home ownership? Or what percentage of people in a particular place have college degrees? They found a key variable to explore:

When the Census Bureau asks Americans about their ancestors, some respondents don’t give a standard answer like “English” or “German.” Instead, they simply answer “American.”

The places with high concentrations of these self-described Americans turn out to be the places Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has performed the strongest.

I’ve plotted the percentage of “American” ancestry, by county, on a national map. Keep in mind the data come from a five-year survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, so the accuracy in large counties is relatively safe.

But in smaller counties — say, those with fewer than 10,000 residents — the margins of error can be quite high. The results are even more problematic in the tiniest of counties. Still, this is the best public data we have, and it does produce some interesting geographic trends:

Mapping Clinton, Trump Support

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

I’ve been collecting county-level data on the presidential primary race since the contests began earlier this year. With Donald Trump now the Republicans’ presumptive nominee — and Hillary Clinton rapidly heading there — here are two maps showing their support so far nationwide (inspired by The New York Timeslovely maps):

primary_results_dems_clintonSM

primary_results_dems_trumpSM

Mapping GOP Campaign Cash by Density

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

The GOP presidential candidates collectively have raised more than $300 million in this election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data. Here’s a quick look at where several of those candidates — Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump — collected the money.

Each dot on the maps (see update below) below represents at least $5,000 raised by zip code. The dots in each place are assigned randomly within the zip code boundaries, creating a density map (think Verizon vs. AT&T) for campaign donations* through Feb. 29.

Here’s a (crowded) map with all the candidates. The dots were layered alphabetically, a method that unfortunately obscures some candidates at this scale, depending on the geography. Still regional differences are evident:

zips_gop_contribs_all

JEB BUSH

The former Florida governor raised large amounts of money, of course, from his home state, but also — as the perceived frontrunner for a time — from major population centers:

zips_gop_contribs_bush_red

BEN CARSON

Carson raised a ton of money for someone who received relatively little love once voters started casting their ballots. His map shows he raised more from small locations throughout the country, not just the major population centers:

zips_gop_contribs_carson_red

CHRIS CHRISTIE

The New Jersey governor, understandably, raised a large proportion of his money from his home region:

zips_gop_contribs_christie_red

TED CRUZ

The Texas senator raised money from all over the country, but he clearly has a financial base in Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Houston — the major population centers in his home state.

zips_gop_contribs_cruz_red

JOHN KASICH

Like Christie, the Ohio governor tapped his donor base at home:

zips_gop_contribs_kasich_red

MARCO RUBIO

The Florida senator’s map looks much like that of his frenemy, Bush:

zips_gop_contribs_rubio_red

DONALD TRUMP

The billionaire business man, who has relied largely on personal funds for his campaign, has raised very little money in checks larger than $200, as reflected in his map:

zips_gop_contribs_trump_red

* To keep the analysis consistent for all campaigns, the maps were created with a data set that excluded individual donations of less than $200. The data include only donations to the candidates’ campaign committees, not other political committees supporting them.

UPDATE (9:20 p.m. EST): Based on David’s suggestion in the comments, I’ve changed the dot color in the individual maps so it’s consistent. You can see the originals here: Bush | Carson | Christie | Cruz | Kasich | Rubio | Trump.