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Analyzing Trump's Patterns Of Tweeting


A careful study of President Trump's tweets reveals something about the man who's writing them. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben has been running the president's words through computer analysis and has learned something about how he might be feeling this very week. Hi, Danielle.


INSKEEP: So what is it you're learning?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, based on his tweets from this week, it seems like he's in a worse mood than he has been lately.

INSKEEP: How would you analyze a person's mood from their tweets?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, we ran what's called sentiment analysis. Basically, we run his tweets through a computer program. It scores them based on how positive or negative they are. When he uses great, good, happy or whatever, then it's more positive. When he uses words like sad or failing, such as the failing New York Times, then it's more negative.


INSKEEP: Sentiment analysis is what...


INSKEEP: ...This is called. So when you do this analysis on the first hundred days of this presidency, what do you find?

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah, so I ran the numbers with my colleague, David Eads. He's on the NPR Visuals team. And this is what we found. This week was his first negative week in quite a while. He had a really long stretch of positivity in the last couple of months. But this week, he suddenly seems to have - his tweets have turned sour, you could say.

INSKEEP: Just as the hundred days are ending with, as many people have noted, not so many accomplishments compared to what he was hoping for in the first hundred days.

KURTZLEBEN: Absolutely. And he sure is trying to cram a lot into this last week - right? - especially, you know, tax reform, talking about health care, talking about the wall, talking about all the things, at the very least, that he eventually wants to get done.

INSKEEP: So is it possible to rank his different weeks as good weeks, better weeks, worst weeks?

KURTZLEBEN: It very much is. Right around his second week in office, right after he signed that executive order banning people from various Muslim countries from coming into the U.S., that was his most negative week. A lot of stuff happened that week. There was that. He insulted Arnold Schwarzenegger about his performance on "The Apprentice." He put Iran, quote, unquote "on notice" on Twitter. He had a lot to say that week, and it was often quite negative.

INSKEEP: I'm thinking about the analysis of these tweets a little bit more. It could be that you're in a sour mood, and so you say negative things. But you also wonder if the president of the United States might feel a little bit better after he gets a few hard-edged tweets off his chest.

KURTZLEBEN: That's quite possible. And, you know, what's really kind of fascinating about this - very fascinating, is this - is that this is only our second president on Twitter, right? We only have President Obama to compare him to. Now think about this. His tweets were very often neutral or maybe positive. They were very often, you know, hey, everybody, sign up for Obamacare. That is not memorable.

If you can think about this from an even broader perspective, we've gone from fireside chats to televised addresses to YouTube videos to this now. And now we have a window, potentially, into a president's head. We have never had that kind of real-time look before. And it's really stunning what he's doing here.

INSKEEP: Danielle, thanks very much.

KURTZLEBEN: Of course.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben, who, with a colleague, has completed an analysis of President Trump's tweets. Hoping you don't target my Twitter account next.

KURTZLEBEN: I will. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.