Political Science Professor Dr. Heather Evans and her team collected the nearly 800 tweets sent out during the month of June by both Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, and Trump, a Republican. While Trump is famous for his ceaseless outpouring of social media insults, Clinton was actually more likely to attack Trump than Trump was to attack Clinton during that month. Thirty-four percent of Clinton’s tweets criticized Trump, whereas only 22 percent of Trump’s tweets directly slammed Clinton.
Clinton was also significantly more likely than her general election opponent to talk about political issues, researchers found. While only 9 percent of Trump’s tweets dealt with policy questions, 27 percent of Clinton’s tweets were about policy.
Evans, whose work has long focused on how gender affects online political communication, divided policy issues into two categories: stereotypically male and stereotypically female. “When we look at the specific issues mentioned through a key word search, Hillary Clinton discussed ‘female issues’ in approximately 14 percent of her tweets, compared to only 2 percent for Donald Trump,” Evans wrote. “Clinton’s tweets over the past month mentioned the LGBT community, women’s access to reproductive services, education, and healthcare. Out of the six tweets Donald Trump sent that fell into this category, five mentioned the word ‘women’ or ‘LGBT’ and were attacks against Hillary Clinton. The sixth tweet mentioned Obamacare.”
“Hillary Clinton discussed ‘female issues’ in approximately 14 percent of her tweets, compared to only 2 percent for Donald Trump.”
Evans adds that Clinton “mentioned ‘male issues’ like gun control, immigration, and economic issues” in 20 percent of her tweets, compared to 15 percent in Trump’s tweets that mentioned the same issues, “many of which were attacks towards Clinton.”
Evans’s findings about the differences between Clinton and Trump’s tweeting styles fall in line with her previously research about the differences between how male and female politicians use social media.
In a study published last year in the journal American Politics Research, Evans looked at the Twitter activity of every candidate running in the 2012 U.S. House of Representatives elections and found that not only did female candidates post more “attack-style” messages than their male counterparts, but they also were far more likely to tweet about policy.
Even so, Clinton’s greater frequency of attacking Trump also has something to do with her campaign’s tighter focus on the criticizing her actual election opponent and not just reflexively responding to a litany of real and perceived slights. The New York Times has kept track of the 258 people, places and things Trump has slammed on Twitter since officially kicking off his presidential campaign in July 2015. Evans found 17 percent of Trump’s tweets involved attacking other Republicans, Democrats who aren’t Hillary Clinton, the media, and the entire United States government in general. Clinton, in contrast, spent under 1 percent of her tweets slamming those groups.
“If this last month is any indication of future Twitter behavior, we can expect Clinton to focus more on policy and criticizing Trump, while we can expect Trump to criticize everyone else,” she wrote.