The Washington Post has been tracking the social media behavior of U.S. citizens as a method of gauging Trump’s popularity.
The data collected suggests that “Trump’s most fervent online devotees are becoming much less willing to publicly define themselves by their MAGA fandom.”
While mining social media bios as a gauge of a politician’s popularity over time may seem attenuated and superficial, social media bios are in fact a reliable glimpse into an individual’s identity.
“Social media bios function as brief expressions of identity, miniature introductions that include the very least someone believes others need to know about them,” the Washington Post reported.
The study suggested that promoting one’s political identity had become increasingly common in American life.
Over a five-year period, the study found that Americans were indeed more likely to add political words to their bios – often at the expense of other words.
The study’s findings are not only helpful in tracking a politician’s popularity over time; the findings also indicate a greater trend of allowing political affiliation to become part of one’s identity.
Now, there’s a significant distinction between supporting something and identifying with something. “When an affiliation becomes incorporated into one’s sense of identity, it becomes definitional.”
When something is definitional to who you are, any criticism of that something is perceived as a criticism of who you are. That’s why you’ve got grown men getting Green Bay Packers tattoos and getting in bar fights to defend the honor of Aaron Rodgers. Because being a Green Bay Packers fan is a part of their identity.
Similar identifications used to be a rarity in the political world. People would just come out to support a candidate with a message that resonated personally. And maybe over time a trend would emerge in which that person tended to support candidates from one party consistently. But these days, political affiliation is becoming wrapped up in people’s identities. Being a Republican or a Democrat is part of who that person is.
The result is that any criticism of Republicans or Democrats or Donald Trump or Joe Biden is a criticism of the individual whose identity is now wrapped up in a political party. And “if Americans are defining themselves by their political teams, we might expect partisan disagreements to become more personal, more intense, and more intractable.”
Well, we’ve seen that haven’t we? It’s a dangerous place to be. It’s radical and it impedes discourse. And it happens across the political spectrum.
Although, the study now indicates the frequency with which people’s identities merge with MAGA conservatism is lessening.
This is a good thing. I hope similar disassociations begin to happen on the left, too, but the MAGA world is a great place to start.
As for the specifics of the Washington Post study, researchers found that the words MAGA and Donald Trump are becoming less frequent in Twitter bios.
In 2015, only two in every 10,000 bios featured the word Trump. Only one in every 10,000 bios featured the word MAGA. But those two terms skyrocketed in popularity as Trump won the GOP nomination and later the presidency itself. By 2020, the two terms appeared about 70 times in every 10,000 bios.
Now, however, just two years later, Trump and MAGA appear less than 40 times per every 10,000 bios – representing a steady decline in popularity.
The study reflects what observers are sensing: Trump is losing popularity. And everyone, from prominent conservative politicians to everyday MAGA Americans, are becoming less likely to associate with Trump publicly.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.