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Debate: Trump’s hair bigger issue than gun control, immigration, or health care

by | Sep 28, 2016 | Analysis, Events, Politics and Government - US, Traditional Media, Twitter

Analysis shows that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump aren’t shy about calling one another out. And while Monday’s debate finally put them on the same stage, our Twitter analysis shows that many commenters were more concerned with Trump’s appearance than policy issues.

Before Monday’s debate Libby Banks wrote an article entitled, “What Clinton and Trump’s clothes tell us about them,” in which she argued that “the fixation on clothes and hair in the political bubble is nowhere more prevalent than in contemporary US politics.”

So we at MediaMiser wondered: how did concern over the candidates’ style choices rank against policy issues?

We analyzed a large sample of 40,000-plus tweets containing #DebateNight and #Debates2016, and found that tweets about the candidates’ style choices ranked higher than global warming, gun control, immigration or even health care (wow).

It was also determined, however, that mentions of taxes, jobs and crime ranked above mentions of either candidate’s hair or clothing.

But there were only one per cent more tweets about crime than “hair” or “clothing”. A whopping seven per cent of  tweets mentioned hair or clothing, with onlyeight per cent of these mentioning Clinton.

It appears that for Twitter users Donald Trump’s style was more concerning.

In fact, Twitter concern over Hillary’s hair appeared to come only from those worried she was using it to hide an earpiece.

Ranked lower than style concerns were global warming with three per cent less twitter mentions, gun control (5% less mentions), immigration (5% less) and healthcare (7% less).

But while Twitter users thought Trump’s hair was a major concern, online news sources found it less of an issue.

Having searched the same keywords in 224 articles pulled from major online US publications, we found that only health care was mentioned less often than hair or clothing. Taxes (47 article mentions), jobs (38), immigration (35), and gun control (33) were all mentioned in more articles.

That’s not to say that discussions of the candidates’ styles didn’t make their way into online news. Ten articles mentioned hair or clothing, putting style above the two mentions of health care.

Houston Chronicle‘s Wei-huan Chen wrote, “his orange make-up and flimsy golden hair were great touches. So hats off to the performance artists Donald Trump for creating the goofiest political character of the 21st century to life.”

Newsday published an opinion piece by editorial board member Michael Dobie that stated, “I thought of connecting electrodes to the candidates and zapping them for each offense, but that’s probably a criminal offense, and the voltage might do mad things to Trump’s hair and give Clinton some kind of relapse.”

So while Donald Trump’s hair is a big concern, at least on Twitter, perhaps the bigger concern is that the general public seems more concerned with how candidates look than what they propose to do in office.

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Chantelle Brule
After receiving her Master's in Communications from Carleton University, Chantelle brought her research experience to Agility's Media Insights team as a data analyst. She's particularly good at what she does.

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