How did Trump get elected?

After Trump’s surprise election in 2016, Eric Silverman and I wanted to look at Twitter to try and see if it would give us many insights into why this happened. We found a new group of Trump supporters added to, and effectively took over from, an older group of more traditional Republican Party (GOP) supporters during Trump’s campaign. Surprisingly, there was little evidence of Russian infiltration in this new group. We argue that a highly motivated movement of disaffected people played an important role in generating a new wave of support for Trump. The addition of this new support to traditional GOP support, was enough to push him over the bar in several key states in the election.

For more information, we wrote the work up for publication in PLOS One. We also wrote a follow up article in The Conversation.

The figure shows groups we found on Twitter which were associated with Trump’s campaign. The thickness of lines between groups represents how often accounts from a group follow accounts in the linked group.

We found that accounts in the older Republican group (see a in previous figure) switched from following one-another to following accounts in the Trump group (see b in previous figure) .

After the 2012 election, there was a shift from following accounts in the GOP group to following accounts in the Trump group. The time traces show the proportions of accounts that were followed in the Trump (orange line), Alt-right (purple dash-dotted line), or GOP (red dashed line) groups, averaged over each member in the originating GOP group. Events shown: p, Tax Day Events on 12 April 2009 associated with the Tea Party Movement; q, 2012 US elections on 6 November 2012; r Trump’s election campaign announcement on 16 June 2015; s 2016 US elections on 5 November 2016.