Analysing Tweets of Trump and Wilders

An Investigation of @realdonaldtrump, @geertwilderspvv and @geertwilders_mp regarding alt-right/New Right issues.

Team Members

Michel Blonk, Vincent Buss, Marlene Scherf, Joep Voorn & Pieter Vliegenthart


Summary of Key Findings

The rise of populist movements can be observed in the US with the rise of the alt-right as well as in Europe with a continuously growing New Right. Those developments and the interest of the press, as well as the general public, led to this research. This paper, therefore, investigates the Twitter accounts of Donald Trump (@realdonaldtrump) concerning alt-right issues and Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv and @geertwilders_mp) concerning New Right issues. Investigating Donald Trump’s tweets, it can be stated that there are several topics his Twitter account addresses that align with alt-right views. But it also needs to be pointed out that this is not always the case and tweets also go against viewpoints of the alt-right. A significant part of tweets from his account can not be connected to the movement at all and are therefore neutral. Trump's tweeting behavior also changes during several turning points within his campaign, which are discussed in this paper. Therefore, Trump cannot clearly be identified as alt-right, based on his tweets.

Geert Wilders' Twitter accounts were investigated from the moment he started tweeting in 2009. Almost every second tweet can be put into relation to the New Right. Interestingly, the sentiment of Tweets coming from his two accounts does not significantly change over time.

Comparing Trump and Wilders investigated tweets, Wilders can be seen as more New Right than Trump is alt-right.

1. Introduction

The spreading of populism and populist groups is not only visible in Europe, but can be observed worldwide. The Washington Post describes populism as “a political discourse that imagines a struggle between good and virtuous people: and a nefarious establishment” (The Washington Post, 2016).
And further:

A populist is a charismatic leader who uses this kind of thinking to mobilize large numbers of people to gain and hold power. Populists can be either on the left or on the right; the outlook combines with a variety of other ideologies or issues (Kenny, Hawkins, & Ruth, 2016).

This research aims to discuss populism in the light of the alt-right and New Right movements in the US and the Netherlands by the example of tweets sent by @therealdonaldtrump, @geertwilderspvv and @geertwilders_mp. These accounts will be investigated, analyzed and categorized within the light of alt-right and New Right issues and further on discussed to what extent they align with these movements. “Populist leaders like Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Norbert Hoffer [sic], Nigel Farage, and Geert Wilders are prominent today in many countries, altering established patterns of party competition in contemporary Western societies,” state Inglehart and Norris (2016, p. 2). “Their success has bolstered the fortunes of populist parties in many European parliamentary elections” they elaborate further. News outlets, papers, and TV shows report on the rise of populism throughout the world. Dzurinda identifies characteristics that all these parties and populist movements share:

These parties come from diverse ideological backgrounds but they are linked by their characterisation of politics as a fight between the good and the bad: the defenders of the oppressed citizens versus the supposedly corrupt elite. Making vast promises to their electorate, these parties challenge the central elements of democratic thinking and practice (2016, p. 171).

Barlett, Birdwell and Littler describe the characteristics of the New Right even further when stating that:

These parties are defined by their opposition to immigration and concern for protecting national and European culture, sometimes using the language of human rights and freedom. On economic policy, they are often critical of globalization and the effects of international capitalism on workers' rights. This is combined with ‘anti-establishment' rhetoric and language. Often called ‘populist extremist parties' or ‘the New Right,' these parties do not fit easily into the traditional political divides (2011, p. 15).

The above-mentioned research is the starting point concerning alt-right/New Right populist movements for this paper.

The term New Right addresses the recent far-right populist movements in Western European countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria (Bartlett, Birdwell, & Littler, 2012, p. 15). This is to be distinguished from the Alternative Right - in short alt-right: a US movement consisting of various right-wing ideologies (The Washington Post, 2016), with the more racist followers having much in common with the European New Right (Gray, 2015). To both movements, the internet and social media, in particular, are important for spreading their thoughts (Bartlett, Birdwell, & Littler, 2012, p. 15; The Washington Post, 2016).

The New Right and the alt-right share certain aspects, but also differ on some topics. Aiming at protecting a culture they consider to be a part of, these groups turn against immigration and multiculturalism - attitudes that are based on racialism (“Alternative Right,” n.d.; The Washington Post, 2016; Bartlett, Birdwell, & Littler, 2012, p. 15). Reflecting the current issues in each region, the New Right focuses on the disapproval of Muslims (Bartlett, Birdwell, & Littler, 2012, p. 15) while the alt-right is also critical of, for example, the Black Lives Matter movement. Some followers of the alt-right are also openly anti-Semitic (“Alternative Right,” n.d.).

Both groups oppose globalization and favor more isolationist foreign policies (Main, 2016), with New Right followers primarily opposing the European Union (Bartlett, Birdwell, & Littler, 2012, p. 15). In addition to this, the New Right has a considerable socialist component, disapproving of capitalism and advocating workers’ rights (Bartlett, Birdwell, & Littler, 2012, p. 15). The so-called establishment is an enemy to both the New Right and the alt-right (Bartlett, Birdwell, & Littler, 2012, p. 15). In this regard, the US groups consider themselves primarily an alternative to traditional conservatism (“What is the alt-right?,” n.d.; Gray, 2015).

Followers of the New Right and the alt-right complain how they feel like not being able to speak out freely anymore (Bartlett, Birdwell, & Littler, 2012, p. 15; “What is the alt-right?,” n.d.). Even more than their European counterparts, the alt-right fights against so-called Mainstream Media (“What is the alt-right?,” n.d.). Issues that are very specific to the US, and thus to the alt-right, are gun control, which these groups oppose (Main, 2016), and the birther movement questioning the nationality of President Barack Obama (“What is the alt-right?,” n.d.). Especially the alt-right is also critical of gay rights (Main, 2016) and feminism (Caldwell, 2016) as they fear the decreasing influence of men and masculinity (“What is the alt-right?,” n.d.).

Summed up, main differences between the New Right and the alt-right seem to be based on the question which issues are currently popular in Europe or the US. Both groups do have their differences, but considering the alt-right consists of several ideologies and the New Right ideology differs from country to country within Europe, it is hard to make a clear distinction.

Based on literature and media reports, a quantitative content analysis and a sentiment analysis were conducted. The content analysis includes a measurement process of assigning numbers to properties of text, based on a set of rules - an analysis or coding scheme, included in Appendix I & II - (Tan, So, & Chai in Khosrowpour, 2013, p. 753). Those rules were used to move forward with the research regarding analyzing and classifying tweets in an unambiguous way. For this purpose it was important to extract the emphasis of a tweet or the opinion that is transmitted, which is why a sentiment analysis was conducted after the definition of Pang and Lee:

A sizeable number of papers mentioning “sentiment analysis” focus on the specific application of classifying reviews as to their polarity (either positive or negative), a fact that appears to have caused some authors to suggest that the phrase refers specifically to this narrowly defined task. However, nowadays many construe the term more broadly to mean the computational treatment of opinion, sentiment, and subjectivity in text” (2008, p. 10).

Eventually, this paper gives an overview of alt-right/New Right issues, and investigates if Donald Trump and Geert Wilders can be connected to them overtime. In another step, we will investigate if similarities between the two politicians concerning the issues of the populist movements can be drawn.

2. Initial Data Sets

Two data sets were used for this research, both extracted from the Digital Methods TCAT tool (Borra & Rieder, 2014). One dataset included Trump’s tweets from 7 February 2016 until 9 January 2017, containing 3,644 tweets (Trump Data set in TCAT5 07/02/2016 - 09/01/2017). The other data set included the tweets of both Wilder’s accounts from the 22 May 2009 until the 4 January 2017, containing 6,470 tweets (Wilders Data set in TCAT2 22/05/2009 - 04/01/2017).

3. Research Questions

1. To what extent do Trump and Wilders relate to views of the alt-right and New Right movements on Twitter? Do their tweets evolve over time regarding relating topics?

a.To what extent can tweets from @therealdonaldtrump be linked to the issues of the alt-right regarding the main events in the election year?
b.To what extent can tweets from @geertwilderspvv and @geertwilders_mp be linked to the issues of the New Right since he started tweeting in 2009?

2. Can comparisons be drawn between the accounts @realdonaldtrump, @geertwilderspvv and @geertwilders_mp regarding the way the accounts relate to alt-right/New Right issues?

4. Methodology

To investigate if Trump’s tweets can be considered alt-right and Geert Wilders’ tweets can be considered New Right, this research was structured in three parts to discuss different issues and eventually point out possible similarities.

First, tweets from the account @realdonaldtrump from 7 February 2016 until 9 January 2017 were investigated, classified concerning the operationalised alt-right issues, and discussed. Subsequently, turning points of Donald Trump’s campaign and eventually his election were investigated more closely for a possible concurrence with alt-right issues.

Second, a sample of tweets from the account @geertwilderspvv and @geertwilders_pm ranging from 22 May 2009 until 4 January 2017 was analyzed. To be able to investigate the full extent of the dataset, the collection of tweets was reduced to every third tweet from both Twitter accounts. Thereby the collection of tweets contains the general issues addressed, instead of the specific storyline within every tweet. With the approach of using a consequent filter of every third tweet, it was possible to analyze a potential change of topics overtime, and therefore also topics addressed when Wilders reacted to external events, tragedies, or other external influences.

Furthermore, Geert Wilders' Twitter accounts were investigated using the same approach as for Trump's tweets, but within the light of New Right issues. In this case, the second step was to analyze if topics or issues have changed within the analyzed timeframe. It should be noted that the visualization for the overview per quarter starts in 2010 since the tweet sample for 2009 only included 11 tweets.

In order to investigate the tweets for alt-right/New Right issues, a classification system was developed building on the research of Barlett, Birdwell and Littler (2016), as well as the previous conducted investigations by the Washington Post and the L.A. Times (“What is the alt-right?,” n.d., The Washington Post, 2016).

The categories derived from the literature concerning the alt-right movement were: “Political Correctness”, “Feminism”, “Multiculturalism”, “Mainstream Media”, “Immigration”, “Gay Rights”, “Globalism”, “Gun Control”, “Black Lives Matter”, “Racialism”, “Isolationism”, “Manosphere”, “Birther Movement”, “Establishment”.

Categories for the New Right include: “Capitalism”, “Establishment”, “EU”, “Freedom of Speech”, “Immigration”, “Islamification”, “Multiculturalism”, “Nationalism”, “Protecting European Culture”, “Racialism”, “Socialism”, and “Workers’ Rights”.

Furthermore, the next step of the classification system poses a sentiment to each individual tweet. Thereby it classifies the tweet in relation towards the alt-right or New Right viewpoints. This means that the sentiment can either be supporting alt-right/New Right issues, opposing alt-right/New Right issues or take a neutral position. It should be noted that the neutral position does not necessarily mean that it is a neutral and thereby nondescript tweet, but only neutral when it comes to addressing viewpoints of one of the two movements. Moreover, to be put into an alt-right/New Right category, a tweet does not necessarily have to provide concrete policy proposals, but may just support or oppose the movement’s views.

When coding the tweets and assigning issues to them, the challenge was to have an unbiased look at them and only investigate the words and what they state. Even if there was background knowledge of certain events or scandals, that knowledge was not taken into account when coding the tweets. Trump and Wilders are also known for their specific way of speaking and usage of words. Therefore, for example, insults were not always classified as a certain issue but as neutral. Here too, it was important to look at the tweets as neutral and unbiased as possible.

5. Findings

All 5,766 tweets within our sample of the Trump and Wilders dataset were classified concerning sentiment and corresponding alt-right/New Right topic. As displayed in Table 1, the following findings could be derived.
  1. Around three-quarters of the Trump tweets were considered neutral (77,1%), whereas for the Wilders tweets only around half of the tweets were considered neutral (51,9%).
  2. Only 2,63% of Trump's tweets oppose alt-right views. For Wilders, this percentage is even lower with 0,28%.

Table 1

Overview of N of tweets per politician with N of tweets per sentiment and percentage of N total.



N of tweets






Supporting alt-right



Opposing alt-right










Supporting New Right



Opposing New Right






3. More than 68% of Trump’s tweets that align with alt-right viewpoints, only address two out of the total of twelve categories, being: Mainstream Media (37,4%) and Establishment (30,9%), as shown in Table 2.

Table 2

Overview Trumps N of tweets and percentage of total tweets within sentiment that supports or opposes alt-right viewpoints.

Aligning alt-right view

Opposing alt-right view

alt-right topic

N of tweets

Percentage of tweets

N of tweets

Percentage of tweets

Mainstream media













Political correctness








Gun control

























Gay rights



Black lives matter

Total within sentiment





4. Over 63% of Wilders’ tweets that align with New Right viewpoints, only address three out of the total of twelve categories, being: Islamification (26,9%), Establishment (21,6%) and Immigration (14,8%), as displayed in Table 3.

Table 3

Overview of Wilders N of tweets and percentage of total tweets within sentiment that support or oppose with alt-right viewpoints.

Aligning New Right view

Opposing New Right view

New Right topic

N of tweets

Percentage of tweets

N of tweets

Percentage of tweets























Freedom of speech










Protecting EU culture











Workers rights








5. For both Wilders and Trump, the establishment is the second most related to topic, making up 30,9% of Trump's tweets supporting alt-right views, and 21,6% of Wilders' tweets supporting New Right views (see Table 2 & 3).

6. For both, Immigration is the third most related to topic, making up 9,3% of Trump’s tweets supporting alt-right views, and 14,8% of Wilders’ tweets supporting New Right views, as displayed in Table 2 & 3. Trump’s tweets that oppose alt-right views consist of 50,5% of tweets that refer to Mainstream Media.

7. When comparing Trump's tweets over time regarding key moments in his campaign, several findings can be derived. In Figure 1 the general sentiment of Trump's tweets is displayed concerning key-moments in his campaign, worth mentioning is the more or less doubling of tweets that support alt-right after he presumed to be the nominee for the Republican party. In Figure 2, Trump’s tweets that support alt-right views are displayed in relation to key-moments in his campaign. Note that only the top-6 most aligned topics are displayed in Figure 2 which are Political Correctness, Mainstream Media, Immigration, Gun Control, Isolationism, and Establishment.

Figure 1. Graph displaying Trump's tweet sentiment evolving over time in relation to key-moments in his campaign.

Figure 2. Graph displaying top 6 categories of Trump's tweets supporting alt-right view over time concerning key-moments in his campaign.

8. Comparing Wilders’ tweets over time by year quarters, several findings can be derived regarding the change in sentiment as well as addressed categories. In general, tweets opposing New Right issues are only a very small amount. Neutral tweets reach a high in the last quarter of 2014 (more than 60%) which at the same time marks a lower percentage of tweets aligning with New Right issues. See Figure 3 and 4 for an overview of the changes in percentages.

Figure 3. Graph displaying Wilders tweet sentiment per quarter. The interactive version is available.

Figure 4. Flowchart displaying Wilders’ and Trump’s tweets that support New Right/alt-right views as the percentage of total tweets that support the view of the respective movements. The interactive version is available.

6. Discussion

First, we should note that even though this research investigated verified Twitter accounts of both politicians, we can not be sure that the tweets were actually sent by Trump or Wilders respectively. Within the scope of this research, however, we assume the tweets as representative for both politicians opinions.

Looking at the first two findings, Wilders seems to have more in common with New Right views than Trump does with alt-right views, based on the issues addressed in their tweets. They both, however, only address those categories respectively in 20,2% and 47,9% of their tweets. Within those tweets, they mainly address two or three topics that relate to either the New Right or alt-right. By combining these two findings, both cannot be identified clearly as alt-right/New Right. It seems that they both express very personal views, which relate to a very limited amount of New Right/alt-right issues clearly. Trump and Wilders do seem to share their views concerning anti-establishment and immigration - looking at the findings, those topics are second and third most related to.

Although the percentages of tweets opposing alt-right/New Right views are small for both, it is interesting to note that Trump does have more than Wilders. So besides being more neutral than Wilders, he also seems more “anti-alt-right."

What is especially interesting regarding Trump’s opposing alt-right tweets, is that half of them relate to Mainstream Media - which makes this category most addressed for both alt-right aligning tweets as well as opposing tweets. Looking at tweets dealing with Mainstream Media, Trump tends to flip-flop: He praises certain channels or newspapers if it serves him and criticizes them if they do not, for example Fox News:



Although the number of tweets supporting alt-right views is much higher (731) than the number of opposing tweets (95), Trump sometimes turns against alt-right views to tone down previous statements he made as well; to spread a corrective message towards potential voters. This can be shown by a tweet opposing alt-right views within the category of multiculturalism. According to reports, Trump claimed that a judge of Mexican heritage who oversaw a lawsuit against the Trump University had a conflict of interest due to Trump’s rhetoric on immigration (Schleifer, 2016). A few days later, Trump retweeted:


From the visualization of Trump's tweeting behavior over time regarding his sentiment, there can be derived that it changed after several key moments throughout his campaign. The biggest change can be seen after 3 May 2016, when it became clear that Trump would most probably become the Republican nominee. Before that, 86,54% of his tweets were neutral, whereas afterwards, this percentage dropped to 68%. Almost the entire percentual change seems to go over to tweets conforming with alt-right values; from 11,28% to 28,73%. It seems that Trump was more certain to be the official nominee later on, and therefore could be more outspoken on topics he shared with the alt-right movement. We see a reversed change like that, yet smaller, between securing the nomination and accepting it. It seems at that time he understood being the one competing with Clinton, and therefore also had to attract a wider, ‘non-alt-right,' public. His tweets became more neutral again, and his opposing alt-right tweets reached their peak percentage of 5,2%.

When looking at the categories addressed over time in Trump’s tweets, it can be observed that Mainstream Media, as the most mentioned topic, was addressed consistently over time. The category Establishment, second most mentioned topic with only 6,5% less than Mainstream Media, is referred in a less consistent manner, however. Both categories show high peaks, most interestingly Establishment starts peaking one month before election day and ends just a few days after. This can be the result of several reasons, for example, a campaign strategy or reaching potential voters.

From the visualization of Wilders tweets over time regarding New Right categories, we can see that there are several prominent categories that are present over time like Establishment, Islamification, and EU - with several peaks.

In the visualization of sentiments in Wilders’ tweets, it is interesting to see how his tweets support the New Right quite a lot until the first months of 2013, whereafter the number starts declining rapidly, in favor of more neutral tweets. This decrease seems to push through until March 2014, an interesting moment, as the Dutch local elections took place on 19 March 2014. Perhaps Wilders wanted to show a milder side of both him and his party, in preparation for the election. Similarly to what Donald Trump seems to do. Another peak can be seen in the bar from June until August 2014, Wilders may be celebrating his victory or addressing his statement on Moroccans, which led to a big public discussion at that time. Eventually, he was sentenced for this by the court. The sentiment of his tweets stays more neutral after August until today. This may be due to the discussion around his statement or because his more neutral tactic has paid off during the local elections.

Concerning the second research question, there are some similarities that can be found when comparing the Twitter accounts. Both users complain about the establishment, and similarities can also be found when it comes to the topic immigration. There are issues where Trump and Wilders seem to have an overlapping point of view, but besides that, it is difficult to state other clear similarities.

7. Conclusions

When investigating the gathered data within the light of alt-right/New Right issues, it can be observed that tweets from both Trump and Wilders align to certain aspects of the respective movement’s issues. But what also becomes apparent, is that peaks can only be found within certain topics. For Wilders New Right topics are also the topics he addresses in his political career and within his party. Looking at Trump, he relates to issues that support alt-right views, but investigating these closer, they may also be issues that support his persona. He rants about the Mainstream Media and the Establishment, but this does not necessarily tie him to alt-right views. Those are issues he raised within his campaign, and throughout the campaign, he branded himself as the outsider that is not part of the establishment. Moreover, Trump sometimes opposes alt-right issues with his tweets, especially when he praises the Mainstream Media. But as shown in this work, this behavior fluctuates. Based on this research, it can be said that Wilders relates more to New Right issues than Trump does to alt-right issues since almost every second tweet of Wilders could be put into a New Right category while only a quarter of Trump’s tweets qualified for that. The topics that deal with alt-right issues and are addressed by Trump are - generally speaking - ones that are “safe” to address for him as a politician. All in all, both men use topics of the respective movements for their political agenda, but to identify them clearly with alt-right/New Right would be careless.

8. References

Alternative Right. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2017, from

Bartlett, J., Birdwell, J., & Littler, M. (2012). The new face of digital populism. London: Demos.

Borra, E., & Rieder, B. (2014). Programmed method: developing a toolset for capturing and analyzing tweets. Aslib Journal of Information Management, 66(3), 262–278.

Caldwell, C. (2016, December 2). What the Alt-Right Really Means. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Dzurinda, M. (2016). The resistible rise of populism in Europe. European View, 15(2), 171–172.

Fahrenthold, D. A. (2016, October 8). Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005. Retrieved January 18, 2017, from

Gray, R. (2015, December 28). How 2015 Fueled The Rise Of The Freewheeling, White Nationalist Alt Right Movement. Retrieved January 12, 2017, from

Inglehart, R., & Norris, P. (2016). Trump, Brexit, and the Rise of Populism: Economic Have-Nots and Cultural Backlash (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 2818659). Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from

Kenny, P., Hawkins, K., & Ruth, S. (2016, August 18). Populist leaders undermine democracy in these 4 ways. Would a President Trump? Retrieved January 12, 2017, from

Khosrowpour, M. (2013). Dictionary of Information Science and Technology. Idea Group Inc (IGI).

Main, T. J. (2016, August 25). What’s the Alt-Right? Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from

Pang, B., & Lee, L. (2008). Opinion Mining and Sentiment Analysis. Foundations and Trends® in Information Retrieval, 2(1–2), 1–135.

Schleifer, T. (2016, June 3). Trump: Judge with Mexican heritage has an “inherent conflict of interest.” Retrieved January 18, 2017, from

The Washington Post. (2016, August 26). What is the alt-right? Retrieved January 10, 2017, from
Topic revision: r1 - 20 Jan 2017, MiMaJoPiVi
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