COVID's Impact on the US 2020 Election: Insights from Social Media Discourse in the Early Campaign Period

14 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2020

See all articles by Gillian Bolsover

Gillian Bolsover

University of Leeds - School of Politics and International Studies

Date Written: August 21, 2020

Abstract

The impact of COVID on the upcoming November 2020 US electionwill be an important topic in the coming months. In order to contribute to these debates, this data memo, the final in our summer 2020 series on COVID, considers this question based on an analysis of social media discourse in two week-long periods in late May and early July. We findthat only a very small proportion of tweets in election-related trends concern both the election and COVID. In the May period, there was much evidence of conspiracy-style and misinformative content, largely attacking the Democrats, the seriousness of COVID and postal-voting. Tweets also showed that the stances of the Presidential nominees towards the coronavirus has emerged as a major point of political differentiation. In the July period, tweets about COIVD and the election were dominated by the influence of a new anti-Trump Political Action Committee's viral videos, with the hashtags associated with these videos found in 2.5% of all tweets in election-related trends across the period. However, this criticism was not mirrored in the wider dataset of election-related or political tweets in election-related trends. Criticism of Trump was frequent across all time periods and samples, but discourse focused far more on Trump especially in the July period in which tweets about Trump outnumbered tweets about Biden 2 to 1. We conclude that these patterns suggest the issue of COVID in the US has become so highly politicised that it is largely only one side of the political spectrum engaging with how COVID will impact the US election. Thus, we must ask going forward not how COVID will impact the process and outcome of the election but rather how COVID will be used as a political and campaign issue in the coming election.

Keywords: COVID, coronavirus, US, election, Trump, Biden, 2020, social media

JEL Classification: I14, I18, I19, I30, I10, O38

Suggested Citation

Bolsover, Gillian, COVID's Impact on the US 2020 Election: Insights from Social Media Discourse in the Early Campaign Period (August 21, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3714755 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3714755

Gillian Bolsover (Contact Author)

University of Leeds - School of Politics and International Studies ( email )

United Kingdom

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