Trump's anti-refugee tweets might get more attention, but the majority of Americans are tweeting support for refugees. A new project, analyzing 18 months of tweets, shows which states have the most positive sentiment.
"We wanted to make sure that the American public's voice was heard, and we thought that Twitter would be a good medium for that," says Phil Carroll, director of communications for the International Rescue Committee, which worked with the apartment search site Adobo to crawl through the tweets.
"What we were really happy to find was that predominately Americans are welcoming towards refugees," he says. "In certain states, like Kansas for instance, where the governor has come out publicly against resettling refugees, we found that the people of Kansas actually want them and are welcoming towards them."
After searching for a handful of hashtags, such as #refugeeswelcome, #syrianrefugees, and #buildawall, the analysis gave a point for each positive word ("compassion," "help," etc.), and took a point away for each negative word ("invasion," #noMuslims, etc.).
The state of Washington, where the governor said that resettling refugees was a "morally conscious choice," had the most positive tweets. The rest of the most welcoming states were spread across the country—including red states such as Utah, West Virginia, Idaho, and South Carolina.
Even the state with the most negative tweets, Mississippi, had a score that was slightly more positive than negative.
The project looked at tweets between January 2015 and June 2016. There were spikes of activity—more people started tweeting about refugees after the photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach went viral, and there were more negative tweets after terrorist attacks. But the overall sentiment was one of support.
"With Paris, with San Bernardino, there's obviously going to be backlash during those incidents," says Carroll. "But I think what our research shows—because it was done over an 18-month period—is that while there might be periodic setbacks, I think if you look at it as a whole, you'll see that overwhelmingly Americans are still welcoming toward refugees. So these kind of sporadic incidents don't change the aggregate."
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