Governor Romney’s comment about the “binders full of women” he consulted to assemble his cabinet as governor of Massachusetts is one of the most memorable, and quotable, statements from the second presidential debate at Hofstra University. Moments after Governor Romney referred to the “binders,” the social media space lit up with Tumblrs, gifs, graphics, Twitter hashtags, jokes, and comedic twists on this phrase. Governor Romney’s “binders of women” became an instant Internet meme.
Using Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight™ social media analytics platform, we analyzed “binders full of women” in 350,000 opinions on Twitter over a 5-day period. The term “meme” refers to bits of culture that spread and evolve; the concept of the meme metaphorically links the spread of culture to the way that genes replicate in nature. The Internet and social media have expanded the reach and accelerated the speed of memes, such as Romney’s “binders full of women.” Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight™ social media analytics platform provides unique insight into the magnitude and, more importantly, the meaning of this particular political meme.
On the night of the debate, most of the conversation treated “binders full of women” as a quotable, flexible, humorous Internet meme. Twitter users created hashtags, fit the phrase into song lyrics, proposed dressing as a “binder of women” for Halloween, and asked whether Romney’s binders were 3-ring or 2-ring binders.
During the three days after the event, by contrast, most of the conversation treated “binders full of women” as a political statement. In the days following the debate, Twitter users asked whether the binder statement indicates that Romney lacks sufficient policy plans for women. Others fact-checked the “binder” comment, tweeting and retweeting that Romney had not asked for the binders, as he implied during the debate; rather, a women’s group provided the binders to Governor Romney to encourage him to hire more qualified women in the highest ranks of government.
On the fifth day, the overall volume of conversation about “binders full of women” tapered off, and the balance between the meme and political conversation evened out.
As a funny – and anachronistic – image, “binders full of women” took on a life of its own as a social media meme on the night of the second debate. The lively and humorous conversation generated and supported continuing political conversation about Romney’s track-record and plan for women.
By analyzing the themes and drivers of this significant conversation, Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight™ platform shows that the Internet meme drove the political conversation toward Romney’s history as an employer of women and how he would handle women’s issues as a president in the days following the debate.
The team at Crimson Hexagon will be watching the third debate tonight, and we’ll be listening to social media in order to identify and analyze the next politically consequential Internet meme.
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