Senate Incumbents in Trouble on Twitter

Tuesday’s primaries in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Arkansas highlighted the struggle for control of Congress.† Results indicated that voters are eager to reject incumbents in an attempt to change the status quo. Our social media monitoring tool revealed that Twitter had some interesting things to say about the primaries:
First, incumbent Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas won only 45% of the vote in the Democratic Senatorial Primary, necessitating a runoff election – a relative rarity. The impression she’s made on Twitter doesn’t look good either:

Both the conversation in support of Lincoln’s opponent Bill Halter and the conversation against the establishment are higher than the conversation supporting Lincoln. Also, in this case, conversation against the establishment is likely anti-Lincoln, since Lincoln is the incumbent and has been in Congress since 1999. The high volume of negative conversation about Lincoln explains how it’s possible that a challenger was successful enough to warrant a runoff – a fairly rare event.
In the same vein, the incumbents in Pennsylvania and Kentucky didn’t fare particularly well:

In Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak’s defeat of incumbent and long-time Washingtonian Arlen Specter is reflected on Twitter – the conversation supporting Sestak seems to be trending upward. Again, the anti-establishment category is high, explaining Specter’s loss – it seems that upstart candidates are tapping into anti-establishment sentiment to defeat candidates who have traditionally been shoo-ins, a trend that may cause chaos come November.

Finally, favorable Tweets about Tea Party candidate Rand Paul make up a large majority of the conversation on the Kentucky Primary.
For all three of the primaries, we were amazed at the percentage of the conversation that was generally anti-establishment, focusing on the need for change without expressing an opinion on either of the candidates. This has huge implications as it applies to Democrats and Republicans alike – November’s House and Senate elections should be very interesting. Check back for coverage of future primaries and feel free to contact us at

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