The White House Tweets

from The Laboratory for Social Machines at the MIT Media Lab

The White House Tweets

Digital media is dominant in political communication. At the Laboratory for Social Machines, within the MIT Media Lab, our Electome project analyzed how the public responded to political candidates in the 2016 elections. We now draw from the same computer science methods — including machine learning, natural language processing, and network analysis — to explore how the White House, President Obama, and the First Lady have used Twitter to communicate with the public.

    Election-engaged accounts

      Click on the underlined names to select different accounts.

      Election-engaged accounts are U.S. accounts tweeting about the 2016 elections, and all tweets are during the time period of January 1 through October 31, 2016.

      Thanks to collaborations with Twitter and the White House Office of Digital Strategy, our lab has access to the entire database of tweets — with 500 million added each day — including all tweets sent by President Barack Obama (@potus), First Lady Michelle Obama (@flotus), and the White House (@whitehouse).

      For the Electome, our team used semantic data analysis at a massive scale to classify election-related tweets by 21 different issues, such as Guns, Immigration, and Health Care. The result: a unique breakdown of issues that millions of politically engaged people care about.

      We have now classified tweets sent by President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and the White House by the same topics. Above are the top five topics that each account tweeted and how they stack up against what the election-engaged public tweeted from January to November 2016.

      Notable insights

      @flotus tweeted the most about veterans (40 percent of tweets), whereas @whitehouse and the election-engaged public tweeted about this issue in single digit percentiles.

      @potus devoted the largest share of tweets to gun issues (22 percent), far more than @whitehouse and the election-engaged public.

      @whitehouse focused much more on energy and environmental issues than the election-engaged public.

      The election-engaged public regarded immigration a top issue (10 percent of tweets). The three White House handles on average tweeted less than this public about immigration issues by 7.7 percent.

      What's next

      Heads of state in more than 173 countries use Twitter for political communication to a combined audience of over 300 million followers. Through Cortico, a non-profit organization that maps the public sphere, we will analyze conversations with and about several of the most active heads of state, including president-elect Donald Trump. Follow us @socialmachines to stay tuned.