"Corrupt" and "incompetent": Political vocabulary has changed on Twitter | NP Agency

“Corrupt” and “incompetent”: Political vocabulary has changed on Twitter

Election Day 2016 ushered in many changes in the United States.  It also solidified the importance of Twitter as a tool for political communication.  But it wasn’t just that Twitter was now seen as a focus for political news and statements from the new president — Twitter’s vocabulary changed.

We looked at all tweets over the past seven years — from April 2012 to April 2019 — and measured how often people used certain words.

  • Corrupt (along with corruption) saw a 797% increase in usage over that time.
  • Incompetent was used 1,196% more.
  • Embarrassed is up 162%.

Frequency of words – April 2012-April 2019

All of them began to spike as Donald Trump became the Republican nominee in 2016, surged around Election Day and Inauguration Day, and have stayed consistently high ever since.  In other words: never before have people used those words on Twitter as much as they have throughout the Trump presidency.

There are other changes to Twitter’s vocabulary that aren’t flattering to the President:

  • Use of “moron” or “idiot” increased 224%
  • “Jerk” or “bully” are up a more modest 53%, but correlate with the Trump presidency
  • “Autocrat,” “kleptocracy,” or “dictator” are up an enormous 913%
  • “Grift” or “grifter” increased by 605%

But the biggest surge: the word “Cheeto,” with a 5,323% increase over the same period.  We’re sure snack enthusiasts account for some of that, but use of the word is strongly correlated with the political calendar and the rise of Trump.   (“Oompa Loompa” is up 250% but appears to be unrelated, both “spray tan” and “orange” saw decreases over the seven years.)