A Study of Reddit Politics

Given the unique nature of the 2016 Presidential Election, the outcome that had been so unexpected for many should perhaps have been more obvious. Republican candidate Donald J. Trump easily beat out Democratic candidate Hillary R. Clinton in the electoral vote, wholly surprising many. At the introduction of the 2016 election season, then-nominee Donald Trump was seen as an underdog to the far more established Republican and Democratic candidates, and as such his chances of winning were initially determined to be slim-to-none. Fast forward only a couple of months, and Donald Trump held a steady and ever-growing following that eventually led to his swift victory.

This has led many to wonder: what changed in American views, values, and people to warrant the victory of such an unconventional candidate? And consequently, what does this political shift signal for the future of American politics in general? I do not have an answer to the latter question, but I present a means to attempt to analyze the former, using the social media platform Reddit.

Why Reddit?

Reddit is a massive online forum, consisting of thousands of subcommunities (known as subreddits) where individuals can follow and share their opinions on any and all topics. One can find subreddits devoted to topics ranging from important issues like world news and economics, hobbies like kayaking or dendrology. With such a diverse set of communities, there is something on Reddit for everyone.

Additionally, Reddit provides ample anonymity for its users. Because the only thing necessary to create an account on Reddit is a username and password, there is no way to link Redditors (users of Reddit) to their real-life counterpart. As such, people are free to join and post in communities on Reddit that they would feel too harshly criticised for joining in real life.

These factors together create the perfect breeding-ground for analyzing and tracking the 2016 Presidential Elections. Because millions of people frequent Reddit daily, and because every candidate and political party had their own subreddit, users could freely share their political views and ideologies with one another. By tracking the frequencies of certain politically relevant keywords' appearances in political subreddits and the change in users who post in similar subreddits, we can track the shifting popularity of political views over time; it is from this that I hope to discover underlying trends not only about Reddit, but about the events leading up to the grand finale of the election itself as well.

Subreddit User Rankings

Here, you can visit the frequency and ranking graphs that allow us to compare how popular certain subreddits are when compared with other subreddits. Take a peek to see changes in r/politics' userbase over the past six years.

Term-Frequency Plots

Here, you can create your own custom graphs based on chosen subreddit, keyword, and normalization information. Take a peek to see how relevant certain terms are across subreddits over time.