STAYING IN THEIR LANES: ISSUE OWNERSHIP IN THE 2016 AND 2020 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER
Keywords:Political Elections, Twitter, Facebook, Computational, Political Lanes
Prior research has identified issue-ownership across partisan lines, with Republicans seen to focus on issues such as taxes and national defense, and Democrats more likely to focus on social issues and welfare. Given the complexities of the primary race, with candidates aiming to differentiate themselves within their own party, we ask whether the candidates in both parties engage in creating “lanes” by owning specific policy topics. Use supervised machine-learning and a lexicon approach to classify candidate posts on twelve different political topics, we analyze Facebook and Twitter messages from 17 Republicans and 19 Democrats during the 2016 and 2020 U.S. Presidential Elections. We find that Democrats are more likely to post about the issues on social media, and Republicans and Democrats talk about significantly different topics. We also find that candidates of both parties tended to advocate for the issues they cared about, rather than attack opponents on issues.