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SMACC tracks tweets in swing states

Students in a COM class

Illinois State University’s Social Media Analytics Command Center (SMACC) has partnered with the Commission on Presidential Debates to examine what Twitter users in swing states are saying about presidential candidates. Twitter posts from specific counties in swing states will be closely watched before, during, and after this fall’s presidential debates.

The Commission on Presidential Debates is collaborating with a number of technology, academic, and media organizations to engage the public in conversations about election issues during this debate season.

The SMACC, based in Illinois State’s School of Communication, will work in conjunction with students in the Honors 202 class to search for tweets about candidates originating in crucial swing counties in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina, and New Mexico. Student researchers will compile data on which candidate is mentioned in the tweets and whether the posts are for or against the candidate. Data will be collected the day before, of, and after each debate. The results will be displayed using dynamic charts, graphs, and other visualizations on the SMACC website and social media accounts.

“We’re hoping to answer a number of questions by collecting and analyzing this data,” said Nathan Carpenter, assistant director of convergent media in the School of Communication. “How do tweets compare with polling in these counties? How do volume and valence of posts—for or against the candidate—correspond with debate performance? Can mentions about candidates predict election outcomes?”

Illinois State’s Honors 202 class is taught by School of Communication Director Stephen Hunt and Associate Professor of Communication Lance Lippert.

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