USER PREJUDICES: SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGNS IN BATTLES FOR THE U.S. PRESIDENCY
Final Project, DGT HUM 201: Intro to Digital Humanities
Given the time constraints of this project, only a portion of the dataset will be used. The full dataset will be further analyzed for my PhD dissertation.
ABOUT THE DATA
The data set was found through the “Data Is Plural” newsletter. It was pulled from Fusion.net (now SplinterNews.com). This dataset was used by Fusion.net to create a database of images posted by presidential candidates during the 2016 election. The images are pulled from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The compilers of this data used Clarifai to automatically tag the images. There were a few challenges when working with this data set.
Firstly, the way the data was compiled was not the most accurate in that an automatic tagging program uses a learning algorithm based off previously tagged images and uses the correlations between the images and the tags to do the tagging. The compilers themselves give an example of a family portrait being tagged with “zombie” because of the color palette. The accuracy of the tagging depends on the previous database, the clarity of the image, and any image filters or alterations. The idea of going back and then editing the tags manually was not a conceivable goal during the length of a 10-week course. The next large challenge was the sheer amount of data I had to work with; my computer did not have the processing power for it. In order to work with the data within the time frame I had to narrow down the data to just a few candidates.
THE HILLARY CLINTON STATS
5 out of 10 pictures are with Bill Clinton
3 out of 10 are “political” but 2 of those 3 them are in support of the Obama presidency
THE BERNIE SANDERS STATS
2 out of 10 posts are family pictures
7 out of 10 are political and 6 of those 7 are his personal political stances
Well, my gut instincts were right. The first men-identifying candidate, Bernie Sanders, disproved any possible theory that this could be equal treatment across the board. This bothered me, I thought I shouldn’t be surprised, that we’ve been seeing how Hillary Clinton was judged by much harsher criteria than her man counterparts. But it still bothered me.
After looking through the images a dozen times over I finally realized why I was still surprised. Throughout this and previous political campaigns, Clinton supporters and activists noted again and again how unequal the treatment of this woman politician was. This discovery was different because the social media users that were interacting with her posts were not just other candidates or news outlets, they were members of the general public.
Hillary Clinton’s top posts were all on Facebook. An article titled “Social Media Use in 2018” published by the Pew Research center claims that “roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) now report that they are Facebook users.” The similar percentage of U.S. citizens voted in the 2016 election. Now, taking into account that there are more people in the U.S. than there are U.S. citizens there are more U.S. users on Facebook than there are voters. This engagement on the social media platform is much higher than engagement in U.S. politics which further supports the importance of this tool when understand public sentiment. As of Wednesday, March 20, 2019 Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page has a little bit more than 9.6 million followers. Followers of a Facebook page are more likely to be presented posts from that page regularly on their newsfeeds. Now, a follower does not imply either support nor dislike for a candidate but does show a level of commitment to engagement with that online presence.
These are all important demographics to consider when we think about the importance of this engagement trend with Hillary Clinton’s images.
Now let’s consider the demographics previously mentioned and the knowledge that those engagements are done by a large U.S. public. It is this Facebook public that has passed judgement on Hillary’s constructed online profile. It was not only the political commentators in the media or in government that have framed Hillary’s engagement with politics through her gender. Out of her top 10 posts, only one takes a personal political stance. The truth of the matter is that no one cares about Hillary Clinton’s politics, not the media, not politicians, not the public. Netflix hosts a per-decade mini-documentary series from CNN. When talking about the 2000s in the seventh episode titled “Yes We Can” it explores Obama’s presidential campaign and understandably goes into Hillary Clinton’s previous campaign. Clinton was losing the primary to Obama until a turning point in which she broke down during one of her roundtable discussions about women in politics. The media and other politicians heavily critiqued her for this demonstration of emotion and weakness, but here the public countered with their renewed support. This preference for a Hillary Clinton that plays into the stereotypes of her gender (whether genuine or not) is not a unique occurrence in her political career.
“2000s.” Yes We Can, 7, CNN.
“Hillary Clinton Proved That Sexism Is Worse than Racism in America.” Daily Kos, Accessed 23 Mar. 2019.
Lavigne, Daniel McLaughlin, Ross Goodwin, and Sam. “Here’s How We Captured and Tagged 70,000 Photos to Analyze the Bizarre Imagery of the 2016 Campaign.” Splinter, Accessed 22 Mar. 2019.
Netflix. Accessed 23 Mar. 2019.
Smith, Aaron, and Monica Anderson. Social Media Use 2018: Demographics and Statistics | Pew Research Center. 1 Mar. 2018,
“Social Media Demographics to Drive Your Brand’s Online Presence.” Sprout Social, 5 Feb. 2019,