People increasingly get their news from social networks, and social networks are increasingly politically polarized. While both liberals and conservatives use Twitter, its use has not brought them together. Rather, political communities use social networks as a means of self-segregation, as shown by studies of social networks and books such as The Filter Bubble and The Net Delusion.
A 2011 conference paper for the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, “Political Polarization on Twitter” (PDF), looks at the way liberals and conservatives interact on Twitter. The researchers, based at the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University-Bloomington, sought to better understand the relationship between the two major methods of Twitter interaction — retweets and mentions — in the weeks leading up to the 2010 midterm elections. They defined a “political communication” as “any tweet containing at least one politically relevant hashtag” and examined these tweets using an analysis of political hashtags, both liberal and conservative.
The study’s findings include:
“The fractured nature of political discourse seems to be worsening, and understanding the social and technological dynamics underlying this trend will be essential to attenuating its effect on the public sphere,” conclude the authors. While there is “substantial cross-ideological interaction,” it may actually make matters worse, suggesting that Twitter users might be less politically polarized if they never interacted with people with whom they disagreed.
Tags: Twitter, social media, elections, campaigns and media