A Year Ago: The 2016 Gubernatorial Elections

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A year ago today, Ricardo Rosselló won Puerto Rico’s gubernatorial race with only 42% of the vote. This was the pro-statehood Partido Nuevo Progresista’s worst performance since its founding in 1967. The same can be said of the pro-commonwealth Partido Popular Democrático, which had never earned less than 40.7% of the vote.

These political parties’ poor performance can be explained by Puerto Ricans’ growing frustration with the island’s politics, the status question and Puerto Rico’s weak economy. These attitudes convinced many voters to support Alexandra Lúgaro’s or Manuel Cidre’s independent candidacies. The pie chart shows that together they earned around 17% of the vote, though Lúgaro’s 11%  helped her secure a third place finish. To put this in a historical context, the other time a fringe party gained more than 10% of the vote was in 1968 when Roberto Sánchez Vilella’s Partido del Pueblo won 11.7%.

Another reason why the PNP and the PPD did so poorly was their inability to inspire or mobilize Puerto Rican voters. Only 55% of eligible voters participated in the electoral process. Indeed, the voter turnout rate for the 2016 general elections was the lowest in Puerto Rico’s post-1952 history as illustrated in the graph below.

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Why did the island’s main political parties do so poorly? Why did 17% of voters support the candidacy of independent candidates even though they had little chances of winning the election? Why did so many Puerto Ricans decide not to cast a ballot?

Will these trends continue? In some ways the results of the 2017 status plebiscite confirm Puerto Ricans’ negative attitudes against the main political parties and their leaders. But will Hurricane Maria’s impact lead to a political realignment? Will the PPD find its voice? Will the PNP continue to push for statehood, when so many Puerto Ricans are growing weary of the federal government’s slow response to the island’s humanitarian catastrophe?


CBS Correspondent David Begnaud’s Tweets: 34 Days After Hurricane Maria

For Puerto Ricans living in the mainland or in the island, CBS News Correspondent David Begnaud has become a household name. Only a few journalists covered Hurricane Maria’s devastation a few hours after the storm swept through Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017. And Begnaud’s reporting helped many people around the world appreciate the magnitude of the destruction and the unfolding humanitarian crisis. 

What has made Begnaud’s style of journalism different from his colleagues? On top of his news stories for CBS News, Begnaud has used to great effect his Twitter and Facebook accounts to explain the island’s challenges. Many of his tweets or posts include video interviews of federal and Puerto Rican officials shot with his iPhone and photos of the island’s devastation. 

An article on Begnaud’s work, published in The Daily Advertiser, notes that his “Facebook page jumped from 10,000 followers to 315,000 followers in just under one month.” Similarly, on September 1, 2017, Begnaud had around 10,400 Twitter followers, growing to over 75,000 followers this week. In addition, Google Trends data show that during this time period Google users in the United States became more interested in his reporting as well.

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In this post, I want to conduct a quick analysis of Begnaud’s Twitter activity. Using TwitteR, a package created by Jeff Gentry for the R programming language, I downloaded his tweets from September 19 to October 24, 2017, totaling 413 tweets.

The graph below shows how many tweets Begnaud has posted per day.

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In Twitter, users can interact with others users in three different ways. They can respond to a particular tweet by making a comment, they can “reTweet” a tweet or they can “favorite” it. For a journalist, reTweets are a valuable commodity as users who reTweet a tweet are sharing this tweet with their followers. Thus, reTweets help tweets go viral.

The graph below shows a timeline of all the “favorites” Begnaud’s tweets earned during the time period.

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Two tweets standout. On September 26, he posted the following tweet, which was favorited 34,933 times: “About 44% of the population in Puerto Rico is without drinking water, according to the Department of Defense. It’s 90 degrees today.

A day later he tweeted: “Maddening. 3,000 shipping containers packed with food water & medicene [sic] have been sitting at the port in Puerto Rico since Saturday. This post was favorited 36,142 times.

The next graph help us visualize all the reTweets.

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Not surprisingly, the most reTweeted tweets are also the most “favorited” . The tweet of September 27, 2017 was covered by other media outlets around the world. On this day, Begnaud had 21,700 followers. By October 4, after President Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico, he had 49,800 followers.

Begnaud’s reporting has covered many issues, such as FEMA’s and the Puerto Rican government’s efforts to restore power and water to the island’s residents. He has also reported on Puerto Ricans’ frustrations gaining access to the USNS Comfort, the U.S. Navy’s hospital ship which has been docked in San Juan harbor since on October 3, 2017. Begnaud’s tweets have also made references to Governor Ricardo Rossello, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz and President Trump. The following pie chart helps us visualize the total amount of tweets that mention each topic or individual. 

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How are Begnaud’s tweets different from his Facebook’s posts? I will conduct this analysis at later date. But for now it is worth noting that his use of Twitter as a journalism tool has helped him raise awareness of Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts. His tweets and Facebook posts have helped government officials understand Puerto Ricans’ frustrations. Begnaud has also been able to use these social media platforms to make the decision-making process more transparent and to hold accountable federal and Puerto Rican government officials for their post-Maria recovery strategies. It is no wonder that so many people in and outside the island have started online petitions asking for Begnaud to be considered for an Emmy or a Pulitzer for his reporting.

Are you familiar with Begnaud’s reporting? What do you think of his work? Feel free to share your views.

Did Ricardo Rosselló Earn More Mentions than Carmen Yulín Cruz in U.S. Online News After Hurricane Maria?

Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, has become the strongest critic of the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria. Her growing popularity among Democrats in the United States has overshadowed Puerto Rico’s Governor, Ricardo Rosselló. In an earlier post, I used Google Trends data to show that many Google users in the United States started to search for more information on Cruz after her first Twitter battle with President Trump.

While Rosselló has earned more mentions in U.S. TV news organizations’ reporting of the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria, the San Juan mayor did receive more mentions in the cable news channels, especially in CNN and MSNBC.

In this post, we look at U.S. Online News coverage of the island’s recovery efforts and how many sentences include references to either Rosselló or Cruz. In this short analysis, I used MediaCloud,  an open source platform created by a team of researchers at Harvard University and MIT to study “media ecosystems”, to search its collection of U.S. Online News for articles printed between September 18 and October 30, 2017 that mentioned either politician. So, who earned the most mentions?

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Given the Google Trends data, this is not a surprising finding. While Rosselló did receive more mentions in the U.S. TV News coverage of Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts, it is important to note that she earned 47% of all the mentions and that his mentions were inflated by PBS News’ reporting.

If we look at a timeline of the media organizations in MediaCloud’s U.S. On-Line News Collection, we see a similar pattern to the trends we discussed in the previous posts.

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The number of sentences that mentioned Cruz increased dramatically during her Twitter feud in late September with Trump. Different from the trend-lines examined in the previous two posts, sentences mentioning the San Juan Mayor outnumber those mentioning Rosselló for most of the time period.

In the previous trend-lines, we see that Rosselló’s numbers increase after his meeting with President Trump at the White House on October 19. By the end of October, Rosselló’s earns more mentions and this associated with his criticisms of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s efforts to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid and his decision to cancel the contract with Whitefish Energy, which Cruz, among many politicians in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico, had criticized.

With these findings, we can conclude that Cruz has become a rising start in the United States. Her standing in Puerto Rico is more difficult to measure. Unfortunately, the tools we used to measure Cruz’s or Rosselló’s influence in the U.S. media environment does not apply to Puerto Rico. The Google Trends data for Google users in Puerto Rico does show that interest in Rosselló is still very strong. But we need to use these results with caution as many Puerto Ricans lack access to the Internet.

In the future, I will look at how Puerto Ricans perceive both Rosselló and Cruz, by comparing and contrasting Facebook users’ or Twitter users’ opinions of both politicians to a particular issue or event we can deduce their overall standing in the islands’ political system.


U.S. TV News Coverage of Ricardo Rosselló and Carmen Yulín Cruz After Hurricane Maria

Yesterday’s post analyzed Google Trends data for the United States and Puerto Rico to explore which politician – San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz or Governor Ricardo Rosselló – received the most attention after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico September 20, 2017.

While the data clearly demonstrated that Cruz earned the most attention, interest in Governor Rosselló among Google Search users in Puerto Rico was stronger than in the United States. Implied in yesterday’s post is President Donald Trump’s role on Google Search users’ interests on Puerto Rico and its political leaders. Interest in Cruz dramatically increased after her Twitter feud with the President. The same applies to Rosselló after his meeting with President Trump in the White House on October 19.

Google Trends is a wonderful tool, but it has its limitations. Thus, we should also look at U.S. media organizations’  coverage of Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts and see whether these bodies paid more attention to Cruz than to Rosselló.

For this post, I measured the number of mentions both politicians earned in the country’s television news networks. We limited our search queries to the TV news coverage from September 18 through October 30, 2017. We collected these data by searching Archive.Org’s TV News Archive.

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Cruz’z coverage increases during her Twitter feud with President Trump and one of the spikes in for Rosselló’s  mention happens during his visit to the White House. Although these trends are similar to the ones that we saw in yesterday’s Google Trends graph, it is important to note that Rosselló was mentioned more than Cruz in the news coverage.

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What if we filter the results by the type of TV news networks? The U.S. has primarily two types of networks: the cable news channels (i.e. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, etc…) and the affiliated networks (i.e. ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS).

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Based on these two bar graphs, we can make the following observations.

  • Mayor Cruz received more mentions in the cable news channels than in the affiliated news networks.
  • The opposite is true for Governor Rosselló, but it is important to note that his mentions in the PBS News skew the amount of attention he received overall.
  • CBS News has paid closer attention to Puerto Rico than NBC News or ABC News. This is probably the David Begnaud effect, an issue I will cover in a later post.
  • CBS News mentions Cruz slightly more than Rosselló in its reporting.
  • The business news channels have paid closer attention to the Governor than the Mayor and this is because Cruz has little influence over the island’s economy and because these channels are less political, more conservative, and Rosselló has been less critical of President Trump.
  • The more “liberal” news channels have mentioned Cruz more than Rosselló.

To conclude, the TV news networks’ reporting of Puerto Rico’s recovery post-Maria mentions Governor Rosselló more than Mayor Cruz. These figures do not tell us whether the coverage has been fair, critical, or supportive. It is important to keep this in mind. But the TV news coverage has elevated both politicians’ standing in the U.S. As Puerto Rico tries to gain more financial and political support to rebuild its infrastructure and economy, these two leaders will play a role shaping Americans’ understanding of the island’s challenges and future opportunities.

So far we have seen data for Google Trends and the TV News Networks. What about the U.S. print and online media’s coverage of Puerto Rico’s crisis? I will be looking at this in a future post.



Ricardo Rosselló vs. Carmen Yulín Cruz: Who Has Earned the Most Attention Following Hurricane Maria?


The two most visible Puerto Rican elected leaders in the United States are Carmen Yulín Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan, and Ricardo Rosselló, the Governor of Puerto Rico. Rosselló is also the president of the pro-statehood Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP), while Yulín Cruz is one of the vice presidents of the Partido Popular Democratico (PPD) and is expected to challenge Rosselló in the 2020 gubernatorial elections. Who has garnered the most attention in the weeks following Hurricane Maria? 

There are many ways to answer this question. For example, we can collect Google Trends data to explore which politician has received the most attention in the United States and in Puerto Rico. The other way is to measure the number of times the U.S. media has mentioned Rosselló or Yulín Cruz in their news stories. In today’s post, we will use Google Trends data and in tomorrow’s we will examine the U.S. media coverage of Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts.

We will limit our analysis for Google searches conducted in the United States and in Puerto Rico between September 19, 2017 and October 28, 2017. The first pie chart shows that Google Search users in the United States were more likely to seek information about Yulín Cruz than about Rosselló.chart (22)

This should not be surprising. The San Juan mayor’s Twitter feud with President Donald Trump and her repeated criticisms of the federal government’s relief efforts made her a national icon.

The next graph captures the volume of Google searches for both elected leaders during the specified time period.

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The graph shows that Yulín Cruz’s Internet popularity among Americans was linked to her Twitter feud with Donald Trump, which took place before he visited Puerto Rico to survey the damage on October 3. On October 19, Rosselló earned more attention than the San Juan mayor. This spike followed the Governor’sWhite House meeting with President Trump on October 19, 2017.

Google users’ search preferences in Puerto Rico reveal a different story. Yulín Cruz is more popular than Rosselló, but by a smaller margin.

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It is worth highlighting that that the graph below shows that Puerto Ricans did not conduct any searches from September 21 through September 24. These were the days the island experienced a total blackout and Puerto Ricans lacked access to the Internet. The second observation is that interest in Rosselló is higher in Puerto Rico than in the United States, suggesting that the governor’s main political competitor is actually not the leader of the PPD, Hector Ferrer, but the San Juan mayor.

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Although Google Trends is a powerful analytical tool, the data does not inform us which leader is the most popular or which one is seen as more trustworthy. But it is clear from Google Trends that Yulín Cruz has garnered the most interest in the United States and in Puerto Rico.

What do you think of these trends? Do you think that Yulín Cruz deserves all this attention? What do you think of Rosselló’s leadership and his performance so far?