A team of European researchers has developed the US Election 2020 Web Monitor to track the public debate and the candidates’ performance on the campaign trail. Real-time analyses of online coverage based on the webLyzard Web intelligence platform reveal opinion leaders, shed light on events that impact the coverage and help compare stakeholder perceptions.
Visual Analytics Dashboard for the US Election 2020
Like no other presidency in recent history, Donald Trump’s period of office has polarized the electorate and the resulting news and social media coverage. Heated online discussions reflect the prevalence of filter bubbles and echo chambers in the global debate. Web intelligence technologies are uniquely positioned to analyze such phenomena.
Try out the dashboard at us2020.weblyzard.com
The figures below show the results of a media analysis between September 23 and November 11, including a trend chart that reflects the reaction of Twitter users to the election win of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (also available in PDF format or as a slideset from a recent Elastic Meetup on 21 Jan 2021).
The analysis sheds light on the major stories emerging in conjunction with the Republican and Democratic campaigns, the top associations with each of the candidates as well as a comparison of Twitter frequency and sentiment. It also reveals the significant impact of the TV debates between the presidential candidates and their running mates.
Perceptions of the Presidential Race
While the influence of social media is not new, in the 2016 and 2020 election cycles the Twitter postings of the candidates themselves have become key moments that shape the public debate for days and weeks. In this year’s presidential race, the social and economic impact of COVID-19 have eclipsed other issues of national or global importance. At the same time, recent events such as the White House coronavirus cluster, the partisan Supreme Court vote or Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election have introduced additional uncertainties. Statements from both sides amplify these uncertainties and keep fueling the online discussions.
How are citizens and stakeholders perceiving this unusual presidential race? To answer this question, the US Election 2020 Web Monitor analyses social media postings, stakeholder Web sites and the articles of international news media in English, French, Spanish, German and Dutch. Processing these multilingual content streams yields more than five million documents per month. Automated knowledge extraction services then classify and enrich the collected documents:
- They measure sentiment, for example, by associating candidate references with positive and negative expressions.
- Keywords grouped by political party, source or geographic region reflect events and emerging stories associated with the candidates.
- A visual dashboard provides a rich portfolio of interactive tools, as shown in the November 04 screenshot below. This includes trend charts, word trees and geographic projections.
International Research Collaboration
The US Election 2020 Web Monitor is jointly pursued by researchers of webLyzard technology, the Modul University Vienna’s Department of New Media Technology and HTW Chur in Switzerland, who have a long history of successful collaboration. The underlying technologies and the visual dashboard are continuously being extended within the context of major EU research projects funded within the Horizon 2020 Programme (ReTV, EVOLVE and inDICEs).
Previous Awards and Presentations
In 2008, a monitoring application for the US presidential election won the “Online Communities, Web 2.0 and Social Networks” category of the Austrian National Award for Multimedia and e-Business. Eight years later, in June 2016, the US Embassy Vienna organized a joint presentation of Prof. Hans Noel from Georgetown University and webLyzard’s Managing Director, Prof Arno Scharl, to launch the US Election 2016 Web Monitor. In October 2016, the system featured in a TEDx talk on “Analyzing the Digital Talk: Visual Tools for Exploring Global Communication Flows” (see references below).
- Scharl, A. (2016). “Analyzing the Digital Talk: Visual Tools for Exploring Global Communication Flows“, TEDx talk at MODUL University Vienna in October 2016.
- Scharl, A. and Weichselbraun, A. (2008). “An Automated Approach to Investigating the Online Media Coverage of US Presidential Elections”, Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 5(1): 121-132.