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GUEST COLUMN: “BIG DATA ON ELECTION NIGHT”

Mark D. Harmon is a professor of journalism and electronic media at the University of Tennessee

“BIG DATA ON ELECTION NIGHT”

From the Not-So-Farfetched File…

RACHEL MADDOW: Good evening, and welcome to MSNBC’s Election Night 2020 coverage.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: We still have two hours to go before voting locations close on the East Coast, but we do have public opinion polling to give us some fascinating insights into the electorate.

MADDOW: For that we go to Steve Kornacki at the big board.

KORNACKI: That’s right, Rachel and Brian. We’ve been able to use what data experts call common reference points to link standard election polls to all sorts of other Big Data information. Let’s start with comparisons to 2016.

Donald Trump is down ten points among pick-up truck drivers, but up two points among drivers of vehicles with slogans or female images on mud flaps. Joe Biden’s commuting habits seem to be paying off for him. He is winning three-to-one among people who’ve ever traveled by train, two-to-one among those who as a child had model trains. He’s also winning big among those who ever watched Soul Train, or can sing at least some of the words to “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

MADDOW: You have other information about Georgia as well?

KORNACKI: Yes, we discovered that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, known for his botched response to coronavirus, is now less popular than the virus itself.

WILLIAMS: But he’s not on the ballot this time around.

KORNACKI: That’s right, but our numbers indicate he would lose a recall effort by roughly twelve to one.

MADDOW: Any other big surprises?

KORNACKI: Yes, going back to 2016 comparisons, turnout overall could be up by as much as ten percentage points. Those who think it’s okay to cast a third-party protest vote is down 93 percent.

WILLIAMS: I understand you also have social media data.

KORNACKI: Oh, large amounts of social media data. Trump and Biden overall are dead even among Facebook and Twitter users—with Trump holding a strong lead among first-time users from foreign domains.

Looking at just Twitter users, Trump leads among those with spelling and grammatical errors in their posts, and with those who use multiple exclamation points, or who link to conspiracy sites. Biden leads only among those who link to established news and information sites.

We have even more on tweets. Song birds that tweet daily are breaking big for Biden. Parrots are tilting toward Trump. We’re pretty sure Big Bird, and most of Sesame Street—excepting Oscar the Grouch—will be going for Biden. Trump, by the way, scores well among vultures and all creatures who feed on dead flesh.

MADDOW: Wow, that’s a broad database.

KORNACKI: Yes, it is. We even have foreign data. Biden is doing much better than Trump with Americans living in France, those who ever have visited France, and among French people who wish they could vote in this election. Trump leads only among those who can’t find France on a map.

WILLIAMS: You also have some other data you’ve told us is hard to categorize.

KORNACKI: Correct. Trump is down ten points among those who use “summer” as a verb, but he’s up five points among residents of mobile homes who have thought about bleaching their lungs or admit to snorting Lysol.

We can’t give away too much, but I can say all indications are this election night will please a lot of people who shop on Thursdays, post photos of children, and drive automatic transmissions.

Mark D. Harmon, a professor of journalism and electronic media at the University of Tennessee, is an award-winning freelance columnist.