Trump The Spam King: President's Name Tops Email Subject Lines

President Trump has a new distinction, although he may not want it. His name was the most used term in spam subject lines during the midterm election season that ended yesterday, according to a study by Proofpoint.

Trump appeared in 53% of the subject lines examined. The word "democrat" was second, showing up in 11%, and election third, in 10%. In median terms, Trump ran ahead of all other political search terms combined. 

Starting in September, Proofpoint analyzed subject lines in its spam subject line using party names and frequent surrogates. It identified 15 terms, from kamala to sessions, along with the term mid-term, both with and without the hyphen.

It’s not clear how Proofpoint defines spam — as out-and-out fraudulent email, unsolicited email or political email. But it had some experience doing this, having run such studies in the U.S., France, the UK and Germany since 2016.

Other than Trump, virtually all other political terms this year ran in the single digits. The word “republican” took up 7%, former President Obama’s name appeared in 6%, and Sen. Ted Cruz’s in 4%. Clinton and Pelosi were featured in 2% of subject lines apiece.



‘Not only has the volume of email messages with election-related subject lines increased as voting day nears, but it appears that incumbents, with their associated name recognition and strong brands — whether positive or negative —continue to dominate email spam subject lines.”

Here’s the joke on the also-rans: Proofpoint found in its earlier research that “higher volumes of spam associated with a particular party or candidate were correlated with positive outcomes in the general election.”

This variable might shed new light on the midterm results,  joining skirt lengths and certain neck-tie purchases as harbingers of election outcomes.

“As our previous studies have shown, spam campaigners understand the value of brands, and for spam as for ballots, and whether for or against, the election is all about Trump,” Proofpoint notes. 

It adds that, “among high-profile candidates, only ‘Cruz’ and ‘Pelosi’ were above the median number of references in email subject lines. 

In another finding, Proofpoint reports that social media spam volume increased by over 200% during this year’s election cycle. 

Here are the percentages of median occurrences in spam email subject lines. We adhere to Proofpoint’s lower-case spelling of the terms:

  • trump — 2811%
  • democrat — 610%
  • election — 52%
  • republican — 345%
  • obama — 329%
  • cruz — 219%
  • midterm — 178%
  • pelosi — 109%
  • clinton — 91%
  • sessions — 61%
  • kamala — 34%
  • desantis — 15%
  • ocasio — 13%
  • romney — 5%
  • giuliani — 1%
  • kobach — 0%


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