Trends on Hacker News: Politics

This is the first of three articles on an analysis of Hacker News community, utilizing HNProfile.com – a demonstration of the Metacortex platform. The goal is to analyze if there are any political leanings of the Hacker News community.

Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. — Robert A. Heinlein

Democrats vs Republicans

The U.S. is dominated by two political parties – Democrats and Republicans. It’s fairly common knowledge Silicon Valley is largely left-leaning – for instance, in the 2016 elections 86% of San Francisco County voted for the Democratic candidate (from Politico.com).

However, Hacker News does not appear to have the same overwhelming leanings. I assume this is likely because people from around the United States and the world contribute to the community (not just the Bay Area). That being said, the Hacker News community definitely leans left. However, it is a much smaller margin than I personally expected, with the term democrat(s) appearing only slightly more often than republican(s):

Further, in terms of sentiment, each party is disliked / liked to the same extent:

The sentiment around each party is roughly the same – highly negative – which honestly was shocking. However, after manually reviewing some 250 comments to confirm the system was working, that does indeed appear to be the case. From my manual review, it appears part of this is due to many comments in the extremely positive and the extremely negative direction, which averages out.

Libertarians on Hacker News

This becomes even more interesting when we add my personal party of choice, Libertarians: The party is always discussed dramatically less than democrats or republicans (which makes sense as they only get ~2% of the vote). On the other hand, sentiment around the party is much higher:

What does this tell us?

In general, it appears the Hacker News community is not as uniform as the Bay Area when it comes to politics. The Hacker News community pears to be a much more representative sample of the political spectrum and in turn likely capable of more insightful discussions. Libertarians are discussed much less often and are likely more fervent in their support, with few saying bad things said about the party.

Guns & Abortion

In addition to political parties, there are also politically charged topics. Two examples are “gun(s)” and “abortion(s)”, although that doesn’t directly correlate with a political party, it does correlate with issues voters care about (this could be very useful for politicians). In terms of trends, guns are definitely discussed more on Hacker News:

The sentiment on terms are dramatically different as well, guns are discussed in a highly negative context (not too surprising). What surprised me was that abortion is mentioned in a negative way as well — however, I suspect this may be complaining about anti-abortion laws / events.

Let’s add one more “hot topic” — welfare. My assumption is that it’ll be discussed much more positively as there are topics such as “universal basic income” regularly discussed on Hacker News:

Indeed, that “hot” topic does tend to be discussed in a much more neutral way, often fluctuating between positive and negative sentiment. This matches my personal expectations from the community.

Trump

When reviewing politics today, it’s almost a requirement to review sentiment around Trump. I don’t think it surprises anyone the consensus is Trump is awful:

In terms of the “promoter” score for Trump, it is a solid negative, with little to no fluctuation. Promoter score, refers to the number of people recommending or promoting a topic, minus those detracting from a topic:

With the above, the thought of Trump being re-elected at this point is likely nil (for reference during the election vs Hillary Clinton, Trump was slightly up). However, who knows what will happen until then.

Capitalism vs Socialism

Finally, the last thing on the political spectrum is really the classic capitalism vs socialism. Judging from everything I know about the Bay Area, I was thoroughly surprised by the results. It appears capitalism is discussed about more often:

More than that, it appears the sentiment around capitalism is slightly (although, it’s almost negligible) — that was definitely surprising:

In retrospect, this should not be a surprise. The Hacker News community is made up of entrepreneurs and independently minded technical folks. They tend to be more supportive of capitalists than the standard person from the Bay Area (though not overwhelmingly so).

Conclusions

Overall, my conclusion is the Hacker News community is politically moderate. The community does appear to be negative to “hot topics” such as abortion or guns. On the other hand, the community also appears to be tolerant enough to discuss the topic.

For those interested, it’s fairly easy to do this analysis yourself at hnprofile.com/compare and this comes as part of the base system for Metacortex – if you’re interested, reach out! We set this up for companies, self-hosted and just send the system your messages.

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