North Dakotans Are Racist Tweeters?


According to this report from Fargo Forum reporter Marrino Eccher, North Dakotans get racist when they get on Twitter.

FARGO, N.D. — A small but vocal group of disgruntled North Dakotans took to the Web after last week’s election to put the state on the map in an ugly way.

According to a group of researchers who crunch online geographic data, the state was among the national leaders in the rate of racist messages on Twitter posted before and after President Barack Obama’s re-election.

The good news is that there weren’t all that many racist tweets thrown out there. The analysis, published by the group Floatingsheep, found just 395 tweets from Nov. 1 to Nov. 7 that included references to Obama or the election as well as one of two explicit racial slurs.

That’s a sliver of the 31 million tweets posted on Election Day alone, although the study only looked at the 1 percent to 5 percent of tweets that have geographic data attached.

Here’s the problem: There just aren’t that many people who use Twitter here in ND. I work a lot in the realm of social media. While Twitter has gotten really, really big in other parts of the country, Twitter hasn’t. There are plenty of users, to be sure, but the fact that they were able to find less than 400 Tweets qualifying for their study tells us something.

Facebook seems to be the social media platform of choice for most North Dakotans. At least in my experience.

Anyway, we’re talking about a very, very small sample. Something the authors of this study admit:

In his published analysis of the data, Matthew Zook of Floatingsheep wrote that North Dakota and Minnesota were among high-ranking states that had a relatively small number of racist tweets. He said their rankings were driven in part by low overall Twitter activity, as the scores compared the share of each state’s racist election-related tweets to its overall volume of tweeting.

In other words, North Dakota ranks high in racist Tweeting not so much because we actually have a lot of actual racist Tweeting going on but because the sample size is small and easily skewed.

Which makes me wonder why, exactly, this is news? Other than it upholds certain stereotypes, held by our friends on the left, about rural states like North Dakota being full of racists, that is.

This is a deeply flawed study, and reporting its finding does a real disservice to the state. Shame on the Forum for running this story.

Update: A reader asks when we’re going to get a study about hateful tweets aimed at Mitt Romney.

We won’t, because while that’s still hate, it’s not racism. So it’s different, or something.

Update: Here’s a map plotting the racist tweets (click for an interactive version). As you can see, it looks like all the racism on Twitter from North Dakotans came from what appears to be the Minot area. Which makes me believe that the “racism” accusation is based on a few tweets from a small number of individuals.

That this crap “study” is being reported is a joke.

Update: Per the comments, the sample for this “study” was exactly 395 tweets nation wide. I’ve emailed the group responsible to find out how many tweets actually came from North Dakota.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Tim Heise

    A research group called “Floating sheep?” Yep thats reliable.

    • Mike Quinn

      We all know NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, The New York Times, and all the other real journalism is not reliable. We can only rely on Fox and Rush.

  • Mike Quinn

    Rob I agree the data may be flawed, but would you argue there is no relationship between racism, gun ownership, and membership in the Republican party? A friend of mine had his six year old son here on election night and the kid asked ” How come there are no black people at Romney’s party?”, when he saw the Republicans waiting for election returns. Clearly a party that calls 47% of Americans moochers, and uses all the other dog whistle terms is a racist party. Remember when Republicans like The Donald called Obama a Kenyan. No of your good white rich buddies called foul. They never do when Republican do their racist stuff. Who are you kidding if you don’t think red neck Republicans are racist. Come to my town and I can walk you down the street. I will introduce you to people will use the N word and then say how they voted for Mitt. Who do you think you are fooling?

    • Rob

      but would you argue there is no relationship between racism, gun ownership, and membership in the Republican party?

      Yes. I would argue exactly that. I don’t think being a Republican makes you any more likely to be a racist or hateful in general.

      Unfortunately, hate is a bi-partisan affliction.

      • Mike Quinn

        Yup, all those Democrats that were white and voted for Obama were racist. That argument sure holds a lot of water. I will make you a little bet. Come to my town. Walk down the street and start a conversation with someone. Ask them what they think of Obama, then ask them if they are Republicans. I will bet that if you talk to them for awhile you will hear them make racist remarks. Now see how many people who identify themselves as Democrats do the same thing. You cannot be in such self denial to not know the outcome. Who are you kidding? Go to any coffee clutch in any town in North Dakota. Start a conversation about politics, bring up Obama, and if you cannot figure out what party has the racist, you need some help.

        • Rob

          I don’t think whether or not a person votes for Obama is a valid measure of racism.

          • Mike Quinn

            I agree with you, but if someone like my old wonderful Christian neighbor says ” I could never vote for a black man”, then they are racist. I would argue that a party that allows people like Trump to tell the racist lies he does, and the Republican Party remains silent. I would argue that is a strong case for racism in the Republican Party. I have to admit there have been some good Republicans like Colin Powell and other who have spoken out.

          • Gern Blanston

            How about “I could never vote for someone who believes in “magic underwear’?” Oh, that’s a differnent kind of -ism. Sorry, wrong thread…

          • Zog

            “… a party that allows people like Trump to tell racist lies…”
            I’ve heard lots of idiocy from Trump but I must have been behind the door when he made racist comments. Anyway, in a free country/party/society how does one forbid him from saying whatever he damn well pleases? Get with the program, Quinn. The U.S. isn’t (yet) an out and out dictatorship.

          • flamemeister

            Because racism and racial identity are two different things.

        • tony_o2

          Go to some black neighborhoods (the ones that voted 100% for Obama) and ask them what they think about Mitt. You’ll be sure to hear someone make some racist comments. Oh, and they also vote Democrat…..

        • Zog

          My North Dakota Grandpa was both a dyed in the wool New Dealer and a flaming racist. I knew every racist epithet in the book by the time I was seven simply from listening to the old guy in normal conversation. Quinn is both a mindless bigot and a sanctimonious trouble maker.

      • Thresherman

        Here Quinn shows what a bigot he truly is. Bigotry is not simply related to race, but rather is the act of prejudging a group of people based on false preconceived notions. Here he states that gun ownership and Republicanism equals racism, but what about Democratic gun ownership? I doubt that he thinks that too equals racism. So really, gun ownership is immaterial to the point except in that it allows him to take his view, albeit false,that Republicans are racist and dress it up as some sort of inbred redneck stereotype. The man is a bigot AND and an ass.

        • Zog

          Do you know any rural liberals (or Democrats) who aren’t gun owners? I can’t think of even one.

  • siouxfanatic

    most of the tweets came from minot i see

  • awfulorv

    This country spends entirely too much time, and energy, combating perceived racism and not nearly enough time on it’s most significant cancer, ignorance…

    • Mike Quinn

      I can go along with that. The cancer of ignorance caused by Fox, Rush, and Rob, has done a lot to bring down our economy.

      • Gern Blanston

        Just keep preaching your empty claims…

  • flamemeister

    I say this with reluctance, but there has been considerable racism in North Dakota both currently and historically. (Back in the 50s, my 8th-grade Social Studies teacher taught us to be wary of “thieving Redskins.”) In the ‘teens and 20s anti-Semitism was quite virulent, and remains so in some quarters—apparently common among ND Libertarians. The KKK had some success here early in the last century. There also have been anti-racists. Both groups are generally ignorant of any facts and experience, hence both racism and anti-racism in ND has been based largely on stereotypes and clichés acquired from outside sources. It is only fairly recently that native North Dakotans have come into contact with “brown folk” in any significant numbers (aside from Native Americans). The record has been quite bad on that score and is not a whole lot better now.) From what I have seen of this, the influx of blacks (in particular Somalians) and Hispanics may have increased racism here, but time will tell … On the other hand, this ND racism seems to be mitigated by an ND sense of fair play. I have not seen any instances where racist attitudes have been applied actively. (Native Americans might rightly disagree with me on that.)

    • Rob

      Oh, i don’t disagree that there is and was a significant amount of racism here in ND, no small part of it directed against Native Americans.

      My problem is that conclusions about racism in ND shouldn’t be based on a bogus study like this one.

      • flamemeister

        Just indicating that if there were a reliable study it would likely show a strong racist streak among North Dakotans.

        • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

          This from the guy who claimed liberals can’t admit they are racist like you can, but you and the other conservatives whole heartedly accepted your racism and wear it on your sleeves…….therefore: liberals are racist.

          “Liberals are pretty much all racist and they haven’t got a clue. In Hawai’i, at least on the Big Island, racism was the rule. It was a matter of group identity. Haoles, Native Hawaiians, Japanese, Filipinos, Blacks, Chinese, Portuguese—we all razzed each other & told racist jokes at every opportunity. The different groups patronized their own businesses as much as possible. Nobody except white liberals got a hard-on about it. The keys were (1) no one was a clear majority and (2) intermarriage put a damper on grandpa’s racism. I’ve found that I could make friendships by saying “Frankly, I’m a racist.” To which the response is a laugh and a “So am I.” Can’t do that with a liberal because they take their racism very seriously—and they are ashamed of themselves and of their country. Such thinking is rare among ethnic groups who are not ashamed of themselves and of their origins so they have contempt for those who have contempt for themselves.” – Flamer

    • Thresherman

      One thing that needs to be pointed out is that the term “thieving Redskin” was not totally undeserved. Partially this was due to there being a difference of opinion on the understanding of the property rights of strangers between the settlers and the Indians. The Souix, for example, found it lauditory to take the property of strangers, both red and white. Crazy Horse was respected in his tribe not only because of his abilities as a hunter and warrior, but also because he was an excellent horse thief. Having grown up near a reservation, I can honestly say that the vast majority of the burglaries in the area, usually bars because they have both cash and liqour, were committed by Native Americans. Naturally this could have created a hardship on those native americans who were industrious and responsible but rather than engaging in blind racism, most people made their judgements based on behavior rather than on skin color. On several occaisions i have heard people of Native American descent use the term “thieving Indian”, but because the community knew who the troublemakers were, eneryone knew who was being refered to and who wasn’t. Of course people unfamiliar to the area might be appalled by this behavior and might leap to the wrong conclusions, but that is the crux of the issue. The issue of race and racism is both more simple and complex than some want to believe. But for as long as there are those who want to impose a one size fits all definition as well as those who seek to use the issue for their own profit and gain, harmony and true understanding among the races is going to be hard to achieve.

      • flamemeister

        Quite correct. The teacher in question, however, did not put this into context. It was a rant.

  • Harold

    Racism whether from white people, or black people, or brown people is wrong simple as that. These types who spout this garbage usually aren’t the brightest bulbs in the pack.

  • Kim Watson

    Rob, what’s worse is, the total sample was 395 tweets. Nationally. Which put the ND total at what, five?

    As I said in an email to the reporter, Oh No, Someone Is Wrong On The Internet.

    • Rob

      The national sample was 395 tweets?

      i thought that was the ND sample.

      That’s even worse.

  • kevindf

    How much tax money was wasted on this?

    • borborygmi

      only yours

  • Davo

    Gosh, y’all seem really upset by all this racism.
    See, it’s funny, because you’re not!

  • $141015

    I was never a racist till 96% of blacks voted for Obama in 2008 and 93% in 2012.

  • borborygmi

    That was a a bogus and stupid article. The numbers meant nothing.

  • VocalYokel

    I guess I must not be a very good Conservative.
    I thought all the talk about “thieving Redskins” was referring to RGIII and that bunch from DC.

  • Snarkie

    Everyone knows that the GOP is heavily under the influence of racist birthers.

    Can they beat the Forum beat that dead horse any harder?

  • Snarkie Arbuckle

    Rop ort’s racist tweet map looks like the GOP bloc map.

    Of course it’s not representative as many people WHO ARE SO UNWASHED THEY DONT EVEN TWEET also vote GOP.