Jul 24, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Axios-NewsWhip 2020 attention tracker: Dems winning immigration messaging fight

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Negative stories about the Trump administration's immigration policies are getting much more online attention than stories that appeal to readers with immigration views aligned with the president, according to data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios.

Why it matters: According to this tracker — which measures reach and engagement — immigration has been the top issue throughout the campaign by far, and President Trump has continuously leaned into it because he sees it as a political winner. This data shows that he's losing the war of how this issue is being framed online.

  • The stories that are getting the most traction are largely horror accounts and depictions of squalor at detainment facilities near the border.

By the numbers: Since March 1, among the top 100 articles about immigration, those likely to appeal to critics of the administration generated 23.1 million interactions on social media. Those likely to appeal to readers who support the president's agenda have generated 11.1 million interactions.

  • Interactions include reactions, comments and shares on Facebook and likes and retweets on Twitter.
  • Among those top 100 articles, 50 appealed to administration critics, 33 had pro-administration sentiment and 17 had no clear leaning or no clear relation to the administration's immigration policies.

The top 5 immigration articles by sentiment:

Appeal to Trump critics

  1. The father and daughter who drowned at the border were desperate for a better life, family says (Washington Post, 1.58 million interactions)
  2. A firsthand report of 'inhumane conditions' at a migrant children's detention facility (PBS, 1.28M)
  3. Nearly 900 migrants found at Texas facility with 125-person capacity: DHS watchdog (ABC News, 1.12M)
  4. ‘There is a Stench’: Soiled Clothes and No Baths for Migrant Children at a Texas Center (New York Times, 1.07M)
  5. Trump Administration Argues Detained Migrant Children Don't Need Toothbrushes, Soap (Newsweek, 978k)

Appeal to Trump supporters

  1. Obama Built The 'Cages' for Illegals, Not Trump, Says Obama ICE Chief (PJ Media, 1.43M)
  2. Private group with GoFundMe page just built a mile of Trump's border wall in 3 days! (The Right Scoop, 580k)
  3. Child Rapist Found Back in Kansas, Only Nine Days After He Was Deported (Illegal Alien Crime Report, 475k)
  4. Democrat Congresswoman Secretly Sending Staff To Mexico To Coach Migrants How To Beat System, Report Says (Daily Wire, 426k)
  5. California becomes 1st state to give taxpayer-funded health benefits to illegal immigrants (Fox News, 419k)

Between the lines: As Axios' Stef Kight points out, it's telling that the top conservative article embraces the disgust at cages, which has been a liberal line of attack, but shifts the blame away from the Trump administration.

The big picture: It wasn't a given that the top-performing immigration articles would be critical of Trump.

  • When we applied this same analysis to the top-performing articles between January and November 2016, we found that anti-immigration stories — those that bolstered Trump's criticisms of immigration policy — generated 67% more interactions.

Our 2020 attention tracker is based on data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios as part of a project that will regularly update throughout the 2020 campaign.

See all past editions of the tracker here.

Go deeper