Mapping racist Tweets: where post-election hate came from

Mapping racist Tweets: where post-election hate came from

Summary: After Barack Obama won America's 2012 Presidential election this week, a spate of vile racist tweets hit Twitter. One data company tried to figure out where that hate was coming from.

TOPICS: Data Management

After the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, vocal racists took to Twitter.

It looks like the top state for the most racist Tweets is Alabama, closely followed by Mississippi.

The top ten states for post-election Tacist tweets - according to Floating Sheep's [interactive] GeoCommons map,  - are:


LQ of Racist Tweets


Alabama    8.1  
Mississippi    7.4  
Georgia    3.6  
North Dakota    3.5  
Utah    3.5  
Louisiana    3.3  
Tennessee    3.1  
Missouri    3.0  
West Virginia    2.8  
Minnesota    2.7


A hype-generating post by Jezebel (warning: offensive language) initially brought the Tweets to light. Geodata company Floating Sheep decided to combine their skills with Twitter's geolocation data and easy-to-use functionality of GeoCommons to make an interactive map of the racist Tweets.


As we can see in the top ten of their sampling, racist Tweeting is sadly not just a Southern phenomenon. The map shows that people suck in Canada and Mexico, too.

Floating Sheep cautions, "Keep in mind we are measuring tweets rather than users and so one individual could be responsible for many tweets."

To extrapolate, the anti-Obama racist Tweet map doesn't simply show the number of racist tweets.

The map uses a location quotient, which according to Floating Sheep, "indicates each state's share of election hate speech tweet relative to its total number of tweets."

Seven greyed-out states had no racist tweets. Interestingly, most of those seven seem to be states that have lower Twitter use than the rest.

Six of the grey states (Alaska, Idaho, S. Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Hawaii) had a very low number of tweets overall - although one (Rhode Island) had a significant number of tweets.

Details on racist Tweet map methodology

The geodata nerds at Floating Sheep used their very interesting DOLLY (Data On Local Life and You) Project ("Bringing Local Geodata to the People") to collect all the geocoded tweets from the last week (beginning November 1) with racist terms that also reference the election.

A total of 395 hate tweets were aggregated to the state level and compared to the total number of geocoded tweets coming out of that state in the same time period.

Using the examples of tweets chronicled by Jezebel blog post we collected tweets that contained the text "monkey" or "n****r" AND also contain the text "Obama" OR "reelected" OR "won".

A quick, and very unsettling, examination of the search results revealed that this indeed was a good match for our target of election-related hate speech. We end up with a total of 395 of some of the nastiest tweets you might possibly imagine.  

And given that we're talking about the Internet, that is really saying something.

GeoCommons is a GIS - geographic information system - that makes mapping items with geotagged data very easy.

Floating Sheep is wonderfully open about their process, detailing:

To be precise, we took a 0.05% sample of all geocoded tweets in November 2012 aggregated to the state level. The formula for this location quotient is:

(# of Hate Tweets in State / # of Hate Tweets in USA) 


(# of ALL Tweets in State / # of ALL Tweets in USA)

Floating Sheep's work is a mere snapshot, but it is a sobering one. 

I just hope that their little bit of data visualization can spark a bit more awareness raising, discussion and hopefully, change.

In the meantime, Alabama - maybe you just need a hug?

Or perhaps something stronger.

 Via Flowingdata - read also: Geography of Hate.

Topic: Data Management

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  • Redding should have a dot

    I live there and there must have been racist tweets because I've been hearing a lot of it.
  • I wonder....

    ... How many violent, threatening or racist anti-Romney comments were tweeted before the election and where those originated? Perhaps those people need hugs, too.
    • True.

      As there were whites and others being crude toward Obama with racial epithets, there were lots of non-whites being crude toward Romney by using racial epithets as well.

      I still can't figure out the relevance of "pig", though - as a racial connotation I've never heard it used that way before... "honkey" is another matter, however...
    • Sometimes the grasping hand

      finds no straw...
  • You know

    Violet should look up the history of the two major parties before making assumptions.

    But, I don't recall seeing the Anti-Romney Death Threat Posts being tracked here and only once did I see any action taken period.
    • I'm a Leftie and I agree with you entirely

      Well, leftwingers have called me rightwing as well... it's fun being an independent, actually... but rightwingers call me "C*mmunist", even though I'm not a CE O who uses C*mmunist countries to exploit for my own financial profit... such people who do that may as well be called C*mmunists, because that is what they clearly support. They do not support freedom-loving countries like the United States of America...
  • Obviously, tweets had no impact on the race

    For all the tweeting of racial epithets, the outcome of the election was not influenced by them in the least. I'm so glad I am not a tweet-wit.
  • Yes Both Sides

    You seldom hear anything about " capping his white ass " and " starting riots " tweets. I guess the leftist media feels so guilty about slavery etc.; that the blacks aren't allowed to be called racist. What is sad that 95% are and can get away with it in todays society that tip toes around them.
    Irie Dog
  • There seems to be a desire to say that every demographic is equally racist.

    But thats not true by a long shot. After 4 years of the most asinine accusations leveled against the president (some coming from elected politicians), its crazy to insinuate that ANY other president in history was every the target of such a intended effort to characterize him as someone foreign and hateful of America. And although all of us have seen the countless tweets and facebook posts, calling the President a ni**er, where are all the tweets disparaging Romney because of his race? I haven't seen any. Not one.

    And for the record I am not saying that all Republicans are racists, but racism is ABSOLUTELY tolerated in the GOP to a level that it is not in the general public.
    • You haven't been looking then.

      If all you see is racism against Obama you haven't been looking AT ALL for other signs of racism. You probably see it but call it "a normal minorities reaction to the majority," or some other excuse.
  • Biased results

    There is undeniable racism by whites. There is also undeniable racism by blacks and other minorities. A quick search of "honkey" "Cracker" "White" "Black" "Romney" "Obama" "Cap"
    "Racist" "Monkey" "Ni&&er" and maybe some other slang as well from both sides would yield a more accurate model on how much racism was going on between BOTH sides.

    As far as I can tell this article only focus's on racism against blacks, as if that is the only racism that matters.
  • You Gotta Be Kidding Me-This is PROGRESS

    There are 325MILLION Americans and there are ONLY 395 racist tweets (and I bet many by the same idiots)?! That's progress, you boneheads. We can only speculate but I bet the # of "we're going to burn this MF'er down..." or related tweets would have FAR exceeded this if Romney won. The hate comes from the left about 10-1 for the right. But, here's a much better question that should be asked; how many media-types have access to the POTUS or his staff and did NOT ask the tough questions that absolutely should have been asked about Benghazi? No matter how much of a left apologist you are, you can't deny that the media did everything they could to impact the election. Is that their job? It seems they sold their soles and should be fired for malpractice (or whatever the literary equivolence is). SHAME ON YOU!
    Jim S America
    • You're absolutely right

      This is perhaps one of the more cogent comments analyzing the data from a different perspective. What we have are a bunch of folks who want to create "evidence" which supports their hypothesis. And while the left may cheer these findings, they are far from scientific. Ironically if 96-98% of any demographic group were to vote for someone "who looks like them", what does that say about their objectivity?
    • The Entire Article is Basically NONSENSE

      I'm glad you said it and saved me the trouble. Though she admits she's using inferential statistics based on a 0.05% sampling (!?!?!?), she draws "conclusions" that are meaningless. She (and the compiler of the "data") began w/ their "theme," then went out to cut the "data" in a way to support their "racism's rampant" hypothesis. Twitter is a platform DESIGNED for those who don't think before they write/transmit, so it draws many of the intellectually challenged. Now, a WHOLE article on 395 tweets across ALL OF NORTH AMERICA (Notice the "population" is much greater than the US, as Canada & Mexico are included!)

      What they "proved" is that racism has, @ least from this questionable "experiment," decayed to the point of insignificance in North America. This is why low-grade students go into journalism, NOT engineering, for example. ;o)
  • sad

    Also sad that the absence of anything for the northern mountain states probably says less about their racial tolerance than the abysmal state of phone service there.
  • White Ethnicity has a lot to do with it

    If you check out Wikipedia's entry on Scot-Irish, Irish and Polish demographic maps, you'll notice the map has nearly the same pattern. For these three groups, racism is not only a thought pattern but a lifestyle. In the case of Canada, Alberta has a large percentage of Scots-Irish and Irish people. Boston has a very high percentage of Irish Americans and their racism and backward thinking hangs in the air like a thick suffocating smog.
    • Broad Generalizations

      Following you reasoning, both JFK and RFK, Irish-American and born in a Boston suburb, are racists because of an ethnically inherited "thought pattern." Wonder what they were thinking when they ordered those troops into Mississippi? And your methodology is poor too. You can not conclude a causal relationship between this group and their demographic distribution without 1st proving that other ethnic groups are not distributed in a similar pattern. I have also not been informed of an intense racist movement in Alberta.
  • Back Bacon

    Does anyone see a red dot for Canada? I see many on American border towns. I am not Canadian but would would not want to be falsely accused if I was.