Researchers found that Australian, Canadian and U.K. politicians changed their tune after the U.S. election, sending positive tweets about the incoming Biden administration and shifting to a more negative tone on Trump.
(CN) — A Pew Research Center analysis of tweets by Australian, Canadian and U.K. politicians before and after the 2020 U.S. presidential election suggests the plurality of these lawmakers were relieved by President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over the incumbent Republican president, Donald Trump.
Pew researchers analyzed 209,862 tweets from 1,310 elected national officials in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. The analyzed tweets were published between Aug. 28 and Sept. 30, 2020, and from Nov. 7 to Nov. 14 that same year.
Those dates include the first presidential debate between the incumbent Trump and Biden, who won the Nov. 3 election, and the release of an interview between Bob Woodward of The Washington Post and Trump.
Notably, these date ranges do not include the day the president and First Lady Melania Trump announced they tested positive for Covid-19, nor do they include more recent developments, including Trump supporters’ Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol building.
The final dataset narrowed those tweets down to just 5,637 posts in three categories: tweets about the U.S. in general; tweets about the sitting president and his vice president, Mike Pence; and tweets about Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
The nonpartisan research organization found that lawmakers in Australia, Canada and the U.K. rarely directly referenced either Trump or Biden by name, but those who did “tended to voice negative opinions” of Trump, researchers wrote in the study published Wednesday.
“Some of these critical tweets discussed Trump’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic — a sentiment shared among the general public in these three nations — or worried that their own country’s leaders would follow his example in governing,” the researchers wrote. “Others mentioned the president’s temperament, especially after his performance in the first presidential debate on Sept. 29.”
Prior to the election, the foreign lawmakers’ tweets about Biden were more neutral, typically describing his position on issues or quoting him directly without extra commentary, the study found.
“Positive mentions of Biden included portrayals of him as a preferred foil to Trump, while some negative tweets expressed concern about potential Biden policies or worry that he would extend Obama administration strategies they disagreed with,” the authors wrote.
Things changed after news organizations called the U.S. presidential election in Biden’s favor, which took unusually long to tabulate — four days after the Nov. 3 election, the Associated Press was the first to call the race for Biden on Saturday, Nov. 7.
“In the week following his victory, more than half of lawmakers who posted at least one tweet mentioned Biden or his running mate Kamala Harris – and most who did expressed positive sentiment toward the new administration,” the researchers wrote. “Legislators who tweeted about Trump after the election used a more negative tone, similar to before the election.”
Election matters aside, U.K. legislators’ tweets considered potential trade deals between the U.S. and the U.K., which left the European Union on Jan. 1, more than four and a half years after the Brexit referendum. Others wrote about the United States’ role as the guarantor of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended most of the ethno-nationalist violence during Northern Ireland’s Troubles period.
“Good to speak with @RepBrendanBoyle [D-Pa.] this afternoon. Very grateful for his support and that of all our friends on Capitol Hill in protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish Protocol,” tweeted Colum Eastwood, Irish nationalist leader of the U.K. Social Democratic and Labour Party, on Sept. 15. “There will be no USA/UK trade deal if the British government mess with the Protocol & GFA!”
Canadian politicians discussed the United States’ closure of the border between the U.S. and Canada, as well as the currently suspended 10% tariff on aluminum imported from America’s northern neighbor.
“Today, the U.S. announced their decision to drop its unjustified and unacceptable tariffs on imports of #CanadianAluminum,” tweeted Mary Ng, Canadian Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, on Sept. 15. “Canada welcomes this decision — it is a testament to the #TeamCanada approach as we all worked relentlessly to ensure these unjustified tariffs were removed.”
Most of Australian legislators’ tweets about the U.S. compared the country’s coronavirus pandemic response and education system to Australia’s own. Other tweets discussed potentially extraditing Julian Assange, the Australian Wikileaks founder, to the U.S., which accuses Assange of conspiring to illegally obtain confidential information from American military databases.
“In none of the three countries did the U.S. election itself garner the majority of attention from legislators on Twitter,” the researchers wrote.
Harris was frequently congratulated for becoming the first woman and the first person of color to be elected vice president of the United States.
“Your victory is an inspiration to women & girls and to people of colour across our continent,” tweeted Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister, on Nov. 7. “I look forward to working w/ you to help both our countries crush this global pandemic & to crack more glass ceilings along the way.”