Message Matters: How Kellyanne Conway Redirected the Focus of Donald Trump's Twitter Account

Molly Grant

Abstract


This research project studies the effect of campaign manager Kellyanne Conway on the target of Donald Trump’s tweets. Prior research states that while voters best respond to positive advertising, the purpose of Twitter during a campaign goes unresolved. A content analysis of the tweets posted in the two weeks immediately preceding and the four weeks immediately following Conway’s hire is conducted under a nine category coding scheme; the categories of primary focus are tweets about the campaign, issue positions, and attacks on Hillary Clinton. All hashtags accompanying the tweets are also recorded, specifically focusing on the use of campaign-centered hashtags compared to the hashtag attacking Secretary Clinton. The results show that campaign tweets increased in frequency over time after Conway’s hire. Somewhat surprisingly, issue position tweets did not increase after Conway’s hire. Additionally, the introduction of a campaign-centered hashtag, #AmericaFirst, following Conway’s hire aided in shifting the focus of Mr. Trump’s tweets away from Secretary Clinton and towards the Trump campaign. The results conclude that Mr. Trump spent more time tweeting about the campaign once Conway began her role. This research begins to suggest that Twitter does not serve a universal purpose for candidates during an election. Rather, campaign managers matter in that they have the ability to work alongside the candidate to set the overall message of a campaign.


Keywords


Twitter; Campaigns; Digital Messaging

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