It's an election year, and so basically everything that happens in Washington is election-related. And that includes the Supreme Court vacancy and nomination.
Our friends at MIT's Laboratory for Social Machines can analyze every tweet sent in the United States and detect which ones mention election issues or candidates. That lets us see who or what Twitter users are talking about in terms of the election.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13; on Wednesday, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the 63-year-old chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, to take that seat on the high court. So we asked: Of tweets sent about the election (about 150,000 to 250,000 a day), how many have been about the Supreme Court?
People are definitely seeing the vacancy and Obama's nomination as issues for the 2016 election; you can see the spikes here around Scalia's death and then an even higher one this week. On Wednesday, 35 percent of the election-related conversation on Twitter was about the Supreme Court.
We can even gain some insight into who has been the most stirred to tweet about the Supreme Court, looking at people who follow only one of the major remaining candidates: Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. (A follow on Twitter doesn't necessarily equal support, but it does indicate an interest, which is why the data scientists at MIT limit this to people who follow only one candidate.)
A higher percentage of Sanders-only followers tweeted about the Supreme Court in terms of the election on Wednesday and Thursday than those of any other candidate, though his and Clinton's exclusive followers each made up just over 10 percent of the election-related Supreme Court conversation on Twitter then.
Twitter users who followed only one of the GOP candidates were less activated. The election-related Twitter conversation on the Supreme Court had about 8 percent exclusive followers of businessman and front-runner Trump; 4 percent of Sen. Cruz (Tex.) and less than 1 percent of Ohio Gov. Kasich.
In official Twitterdom, both parties made their arguments about how to deal with the nomination; this Twitter Moment shows the GOP line of letting the American people have a voice vs. the Democrats' urging of the Senate to act now.
Special thanks to Bill Powers and data scientists Soroush Vosoughi and Prashanth Vijayaraghaven at MIT's Laboratory for Social Machines for conducting this custom analysis.