Two students have combined their interest in computer science and political science for a project examining the Twitter feed of former President Donald Trump.
Julia Krystofiak from the College of Saint Benedict and Cameron Bjork of Saint John’s University conducted a collaborative effort that was made possible by associate professor of political science Pedro dos Santos and visiting ssistant professor of sociology Jacob Jantzer.
Krystofiak and Bjork presented their research June 18 during a two-day online workshop whose theme was “Political Masculinities as an Analytical Category.” It was organized by scholars from around Europe and sponsored by the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study.
Their ongoing research centers on masculine and populist tones, with political masculinity as the overarching concept.
They were accepted for the Summer Collaborative Grant, allowing them to work in more detail on their research. This grant helps fund student and faculty collaborative research, creative work experience and high-quality mentorship.
This project started small, said dos Santos.
“I downloaded Donald Trump’s tweets for 2020 on a whim last year,” he said. “I started workshopping the idea with some colleagues, and then approached Julia and Cameron after they took one of my classes.”
Krystofiak and Bjork saw this as a great opportunity, working hands-on and applying their majors to this project. Krystofiak, a political science major from Mounds View, Minnesota and Bjork, a computer science and political science double-major from Shakopee, Minnesota are both rising juniors.
“The opportunity to analyze, transform and present this data was enticing, as it allows me to integrate skills and information I’ve learned in political science and data analytics courses,” Krystofiak said.
While populist and masculine messaging throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was the main focus of their project, they decided to analyze and code Trump’s tweets from his President of the United States Twitter account.
“Populism is the idea that legitimate power and moral authority in a democracy should rest with ‘the people’ while opposing various ‘elites’. Our research focuses on right-wing populism, which encompasses instilling fear and anger around issues of immigration, taxes and crime, as well as promoting a strong sense of nationalism within a heterogenous ingroup,” the student researchers wrote in an email.
Krystofiak and Bjork not only elaborated on the kind of populist rhetoric that they analyze, but also expanded on the masculinity rhetoric that they are studying.
“Political masculinities are any kind of masculine trait, behavior, or rhetoric utilized by political players to normalize men’s political legitimacy. Hegemonic masculinity refers to male traits deemed to be ‘ideal’ that often privilege men who are wealthy, able-bodied, heterosexual and in the ethnic majority. This relates to the President specifically in the United States because only men have held this position, creating idealized ‘presidential qualities’ as a type of political masculinities,” they continued.
Trump was the “ideal subject” for their analysis. They explained that the “constant boasting, attacks on others, war-centered language and savior mentality observed in his tweets” made him perfect for their research study, they said.
Coding variables on topics of political masculinities and populism, these students hope to create more opportunities for themselves and other students to formulate more research based on this data and apply it on other leaders.
When they’re done, they plan to publish their research paper and submit it to the Midwest Political Science Association conference in spring 2022 in Chicago, and the European Conference on Politics and Gender in summer 2022 in Slovenia.
“Julia and Cameron show excitement, skill and willpower to continue the project,” dos Santos said of their long-term work.