Trump’s inauguration as American President in January 2017 coincided with a significant reduction in the number of Tweets he posted on certain nativist and hard-right topics, my investigation can reveal. Figures drawn from my study show that the number of times Trump Tweeted on four favoured hard-right subjects fell by more than two-thirds after he became President, from an average of nine and half Tweets a month to just under three. This represents a significant moderation in the output of Trump’s Twitter account following his election as President, showing the increased influence of mainstream Republicans and the partial side-lining of the hard-right. However Trump does continue to post hard-right content on a regular basis, such as on 29 November 2017 when he re-tweeted three anti-Muslim videos from a British far-right group, and his output of other populist content, such as attacks on the media, has increased.
My study investigated how often Trump Tweeted 13 key words or phrases, from the formal launch of his Presidential bid on 16 June 2015 till the end of December 2017. These words were selected either because they closely relate to certain hard-right themes on which Trump has campaigned, notably illegal immigration, relations with Mexico and Islam, or because they represented some crucial factor in his Presidency and/or Presidential campaign.
The four words/phrases I chose to indicate hard-right content were ‘Illegal immigration/immigrants’, ‘The Wall’ (proposed border wall with Mexico), ‘Radical Islam/Islamic’ and ‘Mexico/Mexicans’. For each I discounted any non-relevant Tweets, such as Tweets which referenced ‘The Wall’ in the context of The Wall Street Journal rather than Trump’s proposed border wall. As you can see from the graph below in June/July 2015, the first two months of his campaign, Trump Tweeted repeatedly about illegal immigrants and Mexicans, to an extent that was never again matched in his campaign. This reflects the anti-immigrant and xenophobic language Trump deployed at his campaign launch, when he accused Mexican immigrants of ‘bringing drugs, bringing crime, they’re rapists’. This helped Trump standout in a Republican crowd which included other renown right-wingers like Ted Cruz and Ben Carson.
|Trump's Tweets on four hard-right subjects - Y axis denotes the number of Tweets per month|
Trump didn’t Tweet at all using the phrase radical Islam or Islamic until November 2015, from which point on it became a regular theme in his Tweets. The date could be significant as on 13 November 2015 130 people were killed during an attack by Islamic fundamentalists in Paris, which could have triggered Trump to include anti-Islamic rhetoric in his campaign pitch. Generally Trump maintained a high usage of the four words/phrases I outlined during the campaign though there was a noticeable drop in April and May 2016, with just one and three references to the four key themes respectively. This is likely because during April 2016 it became clear that Trump was highly likely to become the Republican nominee, providing he wasn’t blocked by the Republican National Convention in July, thus Trump’s campaign wound down somewhat as it prepared for the big fight against Hillary Clinton.
Following Trump’s inauguration as President in January 2017 there was a significant reduction in Tweets using any of the four phrases, though all continued to be used. In February 2017 they were used a net total of three times, with five being the corresponding figure for December of the same year. This represents the growing influence of more traditional Republican figures, especially after hard-right activists Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka were pushed out of Trump’s White House team in August 2017. Meanwhile more conventional Republican White House figures such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defence James Mattis remain in place.
I asked Erika Miller, Treasurer of the Republican Party’s official UK branch and a Trump supporter whether she agreed that Trump had somewhat toned down his nativist rhetoric following his inauguration as President. Miller stated that whilst Trump remains ‘an unconventional President’ he has done a lot that mainstream Republicans approve of ‘like the tax reforms and attempted repeal of Obamacare’ suggesting that the gulf between the traditional Republican mainstream and Trump as President isn’t as wide as some think. She admitted that Trump continues to be ‘aggressive on social media’, especially regarding the media, but partly explained this as the result of the ‘strong liberal lean from most US media’.
|Trump's Tweets on various election related subjects - Y axis denotes the number of Tweets per month|
My study also examined how often Trump Tweeted a number of other key words/phrases which I regard as being central issues to either his Presidency or Presidential election campaign. As you can see from the above graph the number of times Trump tweeted about ‘Fake news’ or ‘Russia/Russian’ increased dramatically following his November 2016 election victory, coinciding with significantly increased media interest in Trump’s ties to Russia following his election, and which saw the publication of the ‘Steele dossier’ on 10 January 2017 alleging that the Russian state held compromising information about Trump. Trump never Tweeted about Russia/Russian more than five times a month during the Presidential campaign, but regularly exceeded this figure afterwards. Trump used the term ‘Fake news’ for the first time in December 2016, usurping a term which had just started being used by conventional media publications to describe pro-Trump clickbait sites. His use of the term has steadily increased hitting 22 in December 2017.
The number of times Trump Tweeted ‘Rigged’ is also notable, and reflects his fight in the first half of 2016 with the Republican establishment. Trump used the term 10 times in April and May 2016, by which point Trump was the likely Republican nominee and elements of the Republican establishment were trying to block him. Usage peaked at 13 in July 2016, the month of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland where moderate Republicans attempted to stop Trump becoming the official party nominee.
|Trump's Tweets on three additional subjects - Y axis denotes the number of Tweets per month|
The above chart shows us how Trump’s Tweeting of ‘Obama’ and ‘Make America Great Again’ was reduced following his November 2016 election victory, whilst the term ‘Crooked Hillary’ was used primarily during the Presidential election campaign.