Chris Christie and Twitter: Tracking Public Interest in the Scandals

Depending upon what media outlet you follow, there has been ongoing news about NJ Governor Chris Christie and his problems with Fort Lee and Hoboken.  But the political question everyone wants to answer is “how is this affecting him?” If we look on Twitter, the answer seems to be that while there was an initial burst of interest, things have almost quieted down:

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Clearly, in social media it’s a matter of wait-and-see.  And so we wait for the investigations to take their course and to see what comes out of them …

Chris Christie loses the focus of Twitter by Saturday, 1/11

Will #BridgeGate have legs?  Apparently not, if no new revelations come out.  It hasn’t taken long for people to get bored about the topic: talk about Christie on Twitter is already starting to fade, with Saturday, 1/11, having fewer mentions of Christie than Wednesday, when the scandal broke:

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There’s a lot of talk about whether this scandal is the end of Christie’s 2016 ambitions, and with ongoing investigations and possible new revelations it’s impossible to tell how this will all play out.  But one thing is clear: without any new news, people’s attentions are turning elsewhere.  That may help save Christie’s future — by next year the whole thing could just be dismissed as “old news” and people who use it to raise issues of character dismissed as merely grasping at straws.

Unless there’s further damaging revelations, of course…

Are women more bothered by Christie’s #Bridgegate than men?

Twitter is a great way to track what’s on people’s minds, and by looking at tweets that mention cable news shows we can see what’s on people’s minds with regards to current events. And so it’s no surprise that Chris Christie’s “bridgegate” has been dominating the Twitter discussion on Thursday and Friday.

But there was something surprising in the numbers.  MSNBC’s Morning Joe, which normally has a mostly male set of commentators on Twitter, had an unusually high number of mentions in the 8am hour and most of those Twitter mentions were from women.  So that caused me to wonder: Are women more bothered and more motivated to tweet about Bridgegate than men?

Looking back at the recent history (since the first of the year) of tweets that mention cable news shows, I see that about 41% of the tweets are from women.  But when I just look at tweets than mention Christie or #Bridgegate, the proportion of tweets from women grows to 47%.  The boost from 41% to 47% isn’t a big change, but has noticeable effects, as in how it shifted the audience of Twitter mentioners from male to female for one hour of Morning Joe.

Clearly, women are more motivated by the scandal than other topics on average, and any analysis of the impact of Bridgegate that is dominated by men or a male point of view is going to understate its impact.


Twitter’s Reaction to Marissa Alexander’s 20-year Sentence

Yesterday, Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot to scare off an abusive husband.  Many people, myself included, feel this is a miscarriage of justice.  And many people took to Twitter to express their dismay:

# of tweets mentioning Marissa Alexander

It’s interesting to see what hashtags people are using in their Tweets:

Hashtag Total
#nerdland 246
#MarissaAlexander 230
#StandYourGround 89
#Marissa 59
#FreeMarissa 48
#FL 38
#syg 31
#TrayvonMartin 30
#Trayvon 30

The most frequent hashtag is #nerdland, which refers to the Melissa Harris-Perry show on the weekends and, in fact, the bulk of tweets using that tag occurred last weekend.  The Trayvon Martin tags come from the fact that the prosecutor in this case, Angela Corey, is also the prosecutor in the George Zimmerman trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin.  Ms. Corey is no stranger to controversial cases: she is also currently prosecuting Cristian Fernandez as an adult for murder, even though he was 12 at the time the crime was committed.


I see a lot of people asking what the hashtag #SYG means: Stand Your Ground, the law in Florida that did not help  Marissa Alexander and may or may not help George Zimmerman.

And the Sanford City Commission Gets Its 15 Minutes of Twitter Fame

The Sanford City Commission voted to not accept the resignation of the city’s police chief, Bill Lee, sparking a round of comments on Twitter:

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It’s interesting that the talk on Twitter spiked the way it did — there does not seem to be sustained outrage, at this point, about the commission’s actions.

You can read the Orlando Sentinel article I linked to for coverage of the event, including the reasons given for not accepting the resignation.  Personally, I think it’s a bit of a gamble for the city.  If Zimmerman is convicted, then maybe pressure on the city and the police will fade away.  But if Zimmerman is not convicted, there’s going to be harsh questioning of whether the police’s handling of the case “lost the conviction.”  Pressure, then, to fire the police chief is going to be nearly irresistible, and the commissioners are going to face some awkward questions about why they didn’t take today’s opportunity.  And there’s going to be a lot more talking on Twitter about it.