Data science and climate change: An audience visualization
Originally posted on the Affinio Blog, Hannah Chapple used Affinio to analyse online climate change conversations. A snapshot of her findings are outlined below, or you can read the full analysis here.
Climate change is poised to be a huge scientific and political topic in 2017. Like most divisive and politically-charged conversations, much of the debate occurs online. But trying to understand this online dialogue is nearly impossible based off of the sheer size of the data set. There are simply too many conversations, articles, interactions to interpret.
To understand the context and breadth of the climate change discussion, as well as the audiences participating, we used Affinio analyses.
Affinio is a data science as a service platform (DSaaS) that generates actionable insights at the speed of culture. Affinio’s custom graph engine analyzes billions of connections to automatically uncover natural segments and develop cultural profiles. For market researchers, brands, or insights teams interested in learning more about a particular topic, field, or audience, Affinio can make you an expert in hours, not months.
Which communities are leading the climate change dialogue?
Affinio shows that on Twitter (over a 30-day study period) over 151,000 individuals participated in climate change related discussions* by using one of the following terms:
Affinio’s algorithm lets us look at the connections between the +151,000 individuals participating in the conversation, evaluate them, and reason about them in aggregate. Through the use of machine learning and social media analysis, Affinio analyzed the connections between the accounts within the audience, the content read and shared by audience members, and the interests of this audience.
The audience visualization below reveals how the individuals participating in the climate change conversation segmented into 20 interest-based communities. Each cluster of colored nodes represents an interest-based community. The more nodes, the bigger the community. The lines between the nodes represent follower relationships. The more lines, the more people in the community are likely to know each other or are connected.
Affinio analyzes the profiles of every audience cluster and plots their locations using a heat map. Darker/highly saturated areas indicate zones where a lot of audience members live. We can also view top locations in a word cloud. The word cloud reveals that the largest portion of the audience is located in the US.
Image: Affinio’s heat map and locations word cloud.
Bringing clarity and context to the clusters
To add clarity to each audience cluster as well as context, Affinio exposes the top shared interests (including celebrities, media, organizations, and brands), self-described locations, biographical keywords, links shared, content favorited, and many more attributes. By exploring these clusters in detail, we can quickly uncover the political nature of the audience and the context of their climate change conversation.
The largest interest-based communities (based on audience share) we discovered were International News and Journalists, Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Supporters, and Movie and Comic Fanatics. Smaller, niche communities interested in climate change included Indians Interested in Politics, Gamers, and Detroit Teens Who Love Rap.
Note: Report creators assign names to clusters. Names are typically assigned based on top traits of the audience.
Interest-based communities up close
Immediately we can understand the context of the conversation by diving into each interest-based community. Each community is unique, and different viewpoints towards and interpretations of climate change are evident. To demonstrate, we will look at two starkly different clusters: Trump Supporters and Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Enthusiasts.
Trump Supporters VS Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Supporters
Top interests of the Trump Supporters
Image: Affinio’s top interests for the Trump Supporters cluster.
Top Interests of the Trump Supporter, featured above, include individuals such as Ann Coulter, David A. Clarke Jr., Donald Trump, and Paul Joseph Watson; and media and publications such as Breitbart News, WikiLeaks, and Fox News.
Top interests of the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Supporters
Image: Affinio’s top interests for the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Supporters cluster.
Top Interests of the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Supporters, featured above, include individuals such as Bill McKibben, Christiana Figueres, Svein T veitdal, and Alexander Verbeek; and media and publications such as Guardian Environment, Climate Reality, and HuffPost Green.
How Trump Supporters self-describe
Top biographical keywords for this community showcase affiliation to the USA President-elect. Keywords include terms such as #MAGA, Christian, Trump, and Conservative.
Image: Affinio’s top bio keywords for the Trump Supporters cluster.
How Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Supporters self-describe
Top biographical keywords for this community demonstrate interest in the health of our planet. Keywords include terms such as Sustainable, Conservation, Climate, Energy, and Environmental.
Image: Affinio’s top bio keywords for the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Supporters cluster.
Related topics Trump Supporters talk about
Using Affinio’s Topic Explorer feature, an interactive graph that groups articles and videos the audience shares into relevant topic categories, we can see the top topics the Trump Supporter is sharing.
Image: Affinio’s Topic Explorer feature for the Trump Supporters cluster.
Top topics of the audience included groupings of articles related to Donald Trump’s relationship to WikiLeaks as well as Russian-Hacking themed articles.
Affinio also found that an article published by Forbes outlining top global warming skeptics was 15 times more likely to be shared by the Trump Supporter cluster over any other. An excerpt from the article reads,
“A strong majority of the 1,077 respondents believe that nature is the primary cause of recent global warming and/or that future global warming will not be a very serious problem.”
Related topics Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Supporters talk about
To contrast, we also used Topic Explorer to can see the top topics the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Supporters is sharing.
Image: Affinio’s Topic Explorer for the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Supporters cluster.
Top topics included the Arctic and ice-melting; scientific-studies on climate change; and articles sharing North American and European political news.
We can also see that there are more and larger topic groupings in the Topic Explorer for this cluster. From this, we can infer that the audience shares much of the same or similar material.
What these attributes tell us about each cluster
By exploring what each community is influenced by and the content/topics they are sharing, it became evident that the Trump Supporters do not have a strong affinity to climate change initiatives. In contrast, we could see that the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Supporters are incredibly passionate: key environmental leaders influence them, they go as far as to self-describe and attach environmental descriptors to their identity, and they share similar content and article supporting their beliefs.
These results were generated in under one hour, and give us deep insight into the nature and scope of the broader climate change conversation.
Activating Audiences in 2017
Affinio analysis enabled us to immediately understand the context and breadth of the climate change discussion, as well as the communities participating.
As more scientific claims and political events unfold in 2017, no matter what side of the fence you sit, journalists and market researchers must be able to understand the context of breaking news and unearth unbiased insights on the audience impacted - as it happens. With access to high-quality, timely audience insights, journalists can ensure their content targets the right audience and is syndicated with the right channels for maximum reach.
While evaluating and understanding the audiences engaging in the climate change discussion is one example, there are endless possibilities with Affinio’s actionable audience data.
While we won’t know exactly how 2017 will unfold regarding the climate change landscape, Affinio will monitor the size of conversation, communities, and the relevance of interests as they shift over time. Will the audiences supporting climate change prevention grow in 2017?
Interested in seeing more of this data? Let us know by tweeting @Affinio.
A version of this analysis was originally posted on the Affinio Blog.