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This is a fear election. Fear around immigration and security versus fear about health care coverage, according to analysis by Signify, an ethical data science company. And of the two, health care seems to be the winning issue despite Donald Trump’s dire warnings of a caravan heading towards the US-Mexico border.
Signify pulled the most shared online articles about certain midterm candidates, used machine learning to extract topics and manually categorised the most shared coverage as pro or anti each candidate.
In the Arizona Senate race between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally, it found healthcare is more than twice as important to voters as immigration or national security. One in six adults and three in eight children in the state are dependent on Medicaid, the public health insurance programme for people on low incomes.
“Sinema has been relentlessly attacked as unpatriotic and soft on terrorists and immigration by her opponent and backers,” Signify’s report said. “This has been highly effective and Sinema has really struggled for traction: she is basically defined in terms of online profile by the things people have said about her, and the things that have been said back in her defence. It’s not a pretty picture.
“However, Sinema has a strong chance to win as she has a clear position on healthcare, and the issue of pre-existing conditions. McSally has been caught in several inconsistencies regarding Obamacare, pre-existing conditions and her intentions in regard of repealing or protecting Arizona’s seniors. While McSally is a decorated veteran who is perceived as strong, articles about her hypocrisy on healthcare are more than twice as likely to be shared by voters than coverage of her patriotism.
“On the issue of immigration, she gets 1,900 shares per piece of coverage, and this is a key issue in a border state. However, on healthcare hypocrisy, she gets 3,500 shares per piece – it matters a lot more.”
Signify says that in social media terms, a “share” is a much more important identifier than a like, comment or view because it indicates the sharer really cares about a topic. A “share” also exponentially increases the number of people looking at an article or video.