×

Trump vs. Clinton: We only love to talk about the one we hate

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump masks worn by supporters.
Jamie Squire | Getty Images
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump masks worn by supporters.

As Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump prepare for their first head-to-head debate Monday night, their supporters are watching more for flubs from the candidate they don't support than for zingers from the one they do.

Trump supporters spend more time tweeting about Clinton than they do talking up their own candidate. The same is true for Clinton supporters — they tweet about Trump 2.5 times the amount they tweet about Clinton herself.

Online conversation about the enemy has escalated in the last month, while chatter about the candidates themselves by their supporters has remained pretty flat, according to data from social software company Spredfast.


Tweets about the election have ramped up on both sides in recent months as news cycles have been dominated by the campaign. Supporters continue to cheer on their candidate and disparage the other, according to the data. Twitter users tend to interact predominantly with others having the same political views, creating "echo chambers" in which everyone voices disdain for the other side.

"It's amazing to see the polarization of this election cycle," said Chris Kerns, vice president of research for Spredfast. "It will be interesting to see if tonight's debate breaks down these conversation silos, or if the echo chamber effect continues to dominate political discussions across the digital landscape."

For the analysis, Spredfast categorized Twitter users as campaign supporters based on hashtags — like #MakeAmericaGreatAgain and #ImWithHer — in their bios. They collected tweets from the month of July and then Aug. 20 through Sept. 20 to see how frequencies of mentions had changed.

Mark Cuban vs. Gennifer Flowers

One topic in particular has captured the twittersphere in recent days: front row seats to Monday's event at Hofstra University. After Dallas Mavericks owner and "Shark Tank" investor Mark Cuban tweeted that he'd be in the front row to support Clinton, Trump fired back with a threat to give a seat to Gennifer Flowers.

Since then, Trump supporters have been mentioning Flowers on Twitter more often than Clinton supporters have talked about Cuban, according to the data. Cuban has continued to badger Trump on the social media site. Here's one example of his many anti-Trump tweets:

Conversations about the other side have increased, especially for Clinton supporters. In the last 30 days, Clinton supporters talked about Trump in about 25 percent of their tweets, while only mentioning Clinton in 10 percent. That gap is much larger than the approximately 6 percent point difference in July.

The gap for Trump supporters also increased as the polls have begun to narrow. In July, they tweeted about Clinton 3 percentage points more often than they did Trump; that's up to 5 percent in the 30 days ended on Sept. 20.

Activist investor Carl Icahn is one business leader tweeting his support for Trump:


Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank," which features Mark Cuban as a judge.