“Modern Day Presidential:" Donald Trump and American Politics in the Age of Twitter
Keywords:Twitter, President Trump, social media, American politics, journalism
AbstractThe increasing power of social media over American news and politics is difficult to ignore thanks to the visibility of President Trump’s tweets both on online and traditional media. This paper seeks to better understand the strategy behind Donald Trump’s use of Twitter both as a candidate and during his first year as president. Through a careful study of his tweets and their ability to take advantage of the specific user makeup on Twitter and the choice of mainstream media to often echo his tweets in their coverage, a consistent strategy emerges based on a combination of traditional advertising practice and radicalist discourse that continues to reshape the American political landscape today.
Barlow, A. (2010). The Citizen Journalist as Gatekeeper: A Critical Evolution. In J. Rossenberry et al. (Eds.), Public Journalism 2.0: The Promise and Reality of a Citizen Engaged Press. New York: Routledge.
Barthes, R. (1973). Myth Today. In J. Evans and S. Hall (Eds.), Visual Culture: The Reader (pp. 51-58). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Boer, R. (2009). Political Myth: On the Uses and Abuses of Biblical Themes. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Bright, J., Hale, S.A., Ganesh, B., Bulovsky, A., Margetts, H., and Howard, P. (2017). Does Campaigning on Social Media Make a Difference? Evidence from candidate use of Twitter during the 2016 and 2017 UK Elections. Oxford Internet Institute. Retrieved from https://arxiv.org/abs/1710.07087
Bruns, A. (2008). The Active Audience: Transforming Journalism from Gatekeeping to Gatewatching. In C. Paterson et al. (Eds.), Making Online News: The Ethnography of New Media Production. New York: Peter Lang.
Burch, S. (2018, February 8). “Failing” NY Times Revenues Climb 10 Percent on Post-Trump Digital Subscriber Growth. The Wrap. Retrieved from https://www.thewrap.com/failing- new-york-times-jumps-10-percent-on-strong-digital-subscriber-growth/
Carlson, N. (2011, April 13). The Real History of Twitter. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/how-twitter-was-founded-2011-4?op=1
Chiluwa, I. (2015). Radicalist discourse: a study of the stances of Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Somalia’s Al Shabaab on Twitter. Journal of Multicultural Discourses 10(2), 214-235. https://doi.org/10.1080/17447143.2015.1041964
Diamond, J. (2016, January 14). Trump: I could “shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters.” CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2016/01/23/politics/donald-trump-shoot- somebody-support/index.html
Doctor, K. (2016, December 27). “Profitable” Washington Post adding more than five dozen journalists. POLITICO. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/media/story/2016/12/the-profitable
Enli, G. (2017). Twitter as arena for the authentic outsider: exploring the social media campaigns of Trump and Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election. European Journal of Communication 32(1), 50-61. https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323116682802
Enli, S.S., and Skogerbo, E. (2013). Personalized Campaigns in Party-Centered Politics: Twitter and Facebook as arenas for political communication. Information, Communication & Society 16(5), 757-774. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2013.782330
Epstein D. and Reich, D. (2010). Citizen Journalism Online: Promise of an Alternative Conflict Discourse? In S. Tunney and G. Monaghan (Eds.), Web Journalism: A New Form of Citizenship? (pp. 226-247). London: Sussex Academic Press.
Esch, J. (2010). Legitimizing the “War on Terror:” Political Myth in Official-Level Rhetoric. Political Psychology, 31(3), 357-391. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9221.2010.00762.x
Farenthold, D.A. (2016, October 8). Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd- conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_trumptape--04pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.c2cfc05fbc3e
Flood, C. (2001). Political Myth: A theoretical introduction. New York. Routledge.
Giroux, H. (2017). White nationalism, armed culture, and state violence in the age of Donald Trump. Philosophy and Social Criticism, 49(3), 887-910. https://doi.org/10.1177/0191453717702800
Goode, L. (2009). Social news, citizen journalism and democracy. new media and society, 11(8), 1287-1305. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444809341393
Graham, T., Jackson, D., and Broesma, M. (2016). New platform, old habits? Candidates’ use of Twitter during the 2010 British and Dutch general election campaigns. new media and society, 18(5), 765-783. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444814546728
Greenwood, S., Perrin, A., and Duggan, M. (2016). Social Media Update 2016. Pew Research Institute. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/11/11/social-media-update-2016/
Guimaraes, A., Wang, L., and Weikum, G. (2017). Us and Them: Adversarial Politics on Twitter. 2017 IEEE 3rd International Conference on Collaboration and Internet Computing, 872-877.
Gutsche. Jr., R. (2018). News Boundaries of ‘Fakiness’ and the Challenged Authority of the Press. In R. Gutsche, Jr. (Ed.), The Trump Presidency, Journalism, and Democracy (pp. 39-58). New York: Routledge.
Guynn, J. (2018, January 19). Twitter: There were more Russian trolls than we thought. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2018/01/19/twitter-there-were-more- russian-trolls-than-we-thought/1050091001/
Haberman, M. and Oppel Jr., R. (2016, July 30). Donald Trump Criticizes Muslim Family of Slain U.S. Soldier, Drawing Ire. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/31/us/politics/donald-trump-khizr-khan-wife- ghazala.html
Hensch, M. (2016, February 10). Trump deletes retweet of white nationalist account. TheHill. Retrieved from http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/269053-trump- retweets-then-deletes-white-nationalist-account
Johnson-Cartee, K.S. (2005). News Narratives and News Framing: Constructing Political Reality. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Keegan, J. (2016, July 10). Clinton vs. Trump: How They Used Twitter. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://graphics.wsj.com/clinton-trump-twitter/
Kellner, D. (2018). Donald Trump and the War on Media. In R. Gutsche, Jr. (Ed.), The Trump Presidency, Journalism, and Democracy (pp. 19-38). New York: Routledge.
Kim, Y., Gonzenbach, W.J., Vargo, C.J., and Kim, Y. (2016). First and Second Levels of Intermedia Agenda Setting: Political Advertising, Newspapers, and Twitter During the 2010 U.S. Presidential Election. International Journal of Communication, 10, 4550-4569.
Kreiss, D. (2014). Seizing the moment: The presidential campaigns’ use of Twitter during the 2012 election cycle. new media and society, 18(8): 1473-1490. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444814562445
Linksey, A. (2018, January 19). Elizabeth Warren’s Native American problem goes beyond politics. Boston Globe. Retrieved from https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2018/01/19/elizabeth-warren-native-american-problem-goes-beyond-politics/uK9pGOl4JBmqmRUcxTNj3H/story.html
Marwick, A.E. (2013). Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
McCombs, M.E., and Shaw, D.L. (1972). The agenda-setting function of mass media. Public Opinion Quarterly 36, 176-187.
Mitchell, A., Gottfried, J., Stocking, G., Masta, K.E., and Grieco, E. (2017). Covering President Trump in a Polarized Media Environment. Pew Research Institute. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org/2017/10/02/covering-president-trump-in-a-polarized-media- environment/
Mostrous, A., Bridge, M., Gibbons, K. (2017, November 15). Russia used Twitter bots and trolls “to disrupt” Brexit vote. The Times of London. Retrieved from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/russia-used-web-posts-to-disrupt-brexit-vote-h9nv5zg6c
Muñoz, C.F., & García-Guardia, M.L. (2016). The main celebrities on Twitter: analysis of their communication and influence on the social network. Communication, Media and Consumption, 38(13), 112-125.
Nigam, A., Dambanemuya, H.K., Joshi, M., and Chawla, N.V. (2017). Harvesting Social Signals to Inform Peace Processes Implementation and Monitoring. Big Data, 5(4), 337-355. https://doi.org/10.1089/big.2017.0055
Ott, B.L. (2017). The age of Twitter: Donald J. Trump and the politics of debasement. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 34(1), 59-68. https://doi.org/10.1080/15295036.2016.1266686
Otterton, J. (2017, December 12). Cable News Ratings: MSNBC Posts Big Percentage Gains, Fox News Stays Number One, CNN Sets Records. Variety. Retrieved from http://variety.com/2017/tv/news/cable-news-ratings-msnbc-fox-news-cnn-1202637968/
Park, S., Lee, J., Ryu, S., and Hanh, K.S. (2015). The Network of Celebrity Politics: Political Implications of Celebrity Following on Twitter. Annals of the American Academy of Political & Social Science, 659(1), 246-258. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716215569226
Penzenstadler, N. (2016, October 29). The rise and fall of Anthony Weiner. USAToday. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/10/29/rise-and-fall-anthony-weiner/92951622/
Papacharissi, Z. (2004). Democracy online: civility, politeness, and the democratic potential of online political discussion groups. new media and society, 6(2), 259-283. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444804041444
Parmelee, J.H. and Bichard, S.L. (2012). Politics and the Twitter Revolution: How Tweets Influence the Relationship between Political Leaders and the Public. Lanham, MA: Lexington Books.
Parmalee, J.H. (2013). The agenda-building function of political tweets. new media and society, (16)3, 434-450. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444813487955
Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. (2016). How Groups Voted, 2016. Roper Center. Retrieved from https://ropercenter.cornell.edu/polls/us-elections/how-groups-voted/groups-voted-2016/
Salkowitz, R. (2017, January 17). Trump's 20 Million Twitter Followers Get Smaller Under The Microscope. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/robsalkowitz/2017/01/17/trumps-20-million-twitter-followers-get-smaller-under-the-microscope/#a38201b4407c
Sago, B. (2010). The Influence of Social Media Message Sources on Millennial Generation Consumers. International Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications, 2(2), 7-18.
Schienbaum, A.C. (2017). The Dark Side of Social Media: A Consumer Psychology Perspective. New York: Routledge.
Shorestein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy. (2016). Harvard University. Retrieved from https://shorensteincenter.org/research-media-coverage-2016-election/
Shteynman, M. Political Myth and Political Glory: Shaping Media Reality. Russian Sociological Review, 15(4), 96-113. doi: 10.17323/1728-192X-2016-4-96-113
Stieglitz, S. and Dang-Xuan, L. Emotions and Information Diffusion in Social Media— Sentiment of Microblogs and Sharing Behavior. Journal of Management Information Systems, 29(4), 217-247. https://doi.org/10.2753/MIS0742-1222290408
Russell, J. (2017, October 26). Twitter admits it overestimated its user numbers. Techcrunch. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2017/10/26/twitter-admits-it-overestimated- its-user-numbers/
Schudson, M. (1978). Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers. New York: Basic Books.
Schuler, D. (2004). Reports of the Close Relationship between Democracy and the Internet May Have Been Exaggerated. In H. Jenkins and D. Thorburn (Eds.), Democracy and New Media. London: MIT Press.
Soergel, D. (2016, December 29). Cable News Enjoys Banner Year as Fox News Takes Ratings Crown. US News and World Report. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2016-12-29/fox-news-takes-ratings-crown-for-2016
Tillett, E. (2017, November 29). Reactions Pour in following Trump’s anti-Muslim retweets. CBSNews.com. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/reactions-pour-in-following-trumps-anti-islamic-retweets/
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2015a, June 19). Druggies, drug dealers, rapists and killers are coming across the southern border. When will the U.S. get smart and stop this travesty. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/612083064945180672
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2015b, August 10). We must stop the crime and killing machine that is illegal immigration. Rampant problems will only get worse. Take back our country! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/630906211790102528
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2016f, March 19). Wow, @CNN ratings are up 75% because it's "all Trump, all the time." The networks are making a fortune off of me! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/711218418775498752
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2016b, July 12). This election is a choice between law, order & safety - or chaos, crime & violence. I will make America safe again for everyone. #ImWithYou. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/752849315094298624
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2016c, July 17). President Obama just had a news conference, but he doesn't have a clue. Our country is a divided crime scene, and it will only get worse! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/754789482621243392
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2016k, July 31). I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond? Hillary voted for the Iraq war, not me! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/759743648573435905
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2016l, August 1). Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same - Nice! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/760070280932982784
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2016e, September 4). ”@lblackvelvet: @realDonaldTrump We need to show Americans that Hillary will KILL our Country !! Vote for Trump !!" [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/772607185851408387
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2016g, October 8). The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly - I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN! #MAGA [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/784840992734064641
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2016h, October 8). RT @atensnut: How many times must it be said? Actions speak louder than words. DT said bad things!HRC threatened me after BC raped me. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/atensnut/status/784726633588592640
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2016i, October 8). RT @atensnut: Hillary calls Trump's remarks "horrific" while she lives with and protects a "Rapist". Her actions are horrific. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/atensnut/status/784734493471019008
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2016j, October 9). There’s never been anyone more abusive to women in politics than Bill Clinton.My words were unfortunate-the Clintons’ actions were far worse. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/785289587157504000
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2016d, October 16). Election is being rigged by the media, in a coordinated effort with the Clinton campaign, by putting stories that never happened into news! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/787632098794467328
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2016a, October 19). Drugs are pouring into this country. If we have no border, we have no country. That’s why ICE endorsed me. #Debate #BigLeagueTruth. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/788913202474000384
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017c, January 30). If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the "bad" would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad "dudes" out there! [Tweet\. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/826060143825666051
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017d, February 1). Everybody is arguing whether or not it is a BAN. Call it what you want, it is about keeping bad people (with bad intentions) out of country! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/826774668245946368
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017j, February 4). The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/827867311054974976
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017k, February 4). What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.? [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/827981079042805761
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017l, February 5). Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/828342202174668800
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017e, June 5). People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/871674214356484096
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017f, June 5). The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court - & seek much tougher version! [Tweet]. https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/871677472202477568
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017f, June 13). Well, as predicted, the 9th Circuit did it again - Ruled against the TRAVEL BAN at such a dangerous time in the history of our country. S.C. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/874578159676665857
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017h, June 13). Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied...truly bad people! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/897223558073602049
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017m, July 1). My use of social media is not Presidential - it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/881281755017355264
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017h, July 22). While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/888724194820857857
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017b, November 22). RT @IngrahamAngle: “Far right”? You mean “right so far,” as in @realDonaldTrump has been right so far abt how to kick the economy into high gear. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/IngrahamAngle/status/933147495085039616
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017i, December 2). So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed, while Crooked Hillary Clinton, on that now famous FBI holiday “interrogation” with no swearing in and no recording, lies many times...and nothing happens to her? Rigged system, or just a double standard? [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/937141061343956992
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2017a, December 30). I use Social Media not because I like to, but because it is the only way to fight a VERY dishonest and unfair “press,” now often referred to as Fake News Media. Phony and non-existent “sources” are being used more often than ever. Many stories & reports a pure fiction! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/947235015343202304
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2018a, January 16). We must have Security at our VERY DANGEROUS SOUTHERN BORDER, and we must have a great WALL to help protect us, and to help stop the massive inflow of drugs pouring into our country! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/953264081871495168
Trump, D. [@realDonaldTrump]. (2018b, January 19). Government Funding Bill past last night in the House of Representatives. Now Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate - but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/954323750949982208
Verbeke, M., Berendt, B., d’Haenes, L., & Opgenhaffen, M. (2017). Critical news reading with Twitter? Exploring data-mining practices and their impact on societal discourse. Communication 42(2), 127-149. https://doi.org/10.1515/commun-2017-0014
Williamson, J. (1978). Decoding Advertisements. London: Marian Boyers.
Yan, M., Wen, X., Lin, Y., and Deng, L. (2017). Quantifying Content Polarization on Twitter. 2017 IEEE 3rd International Conference on Collaboration and Internet Computing, 299-308.
Zappavigna, M. (2012). Discourse of Twitter and Social Media: How We Use Language to Create Affiliation on the Web. New York: Bloomsbury.
LicenseAuthors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).