Going ‘Bald on Record’: Relationships Among Public Officials’ Social Media Behavior and Language Use

Posted: 23 May 2015

See all articles by Libby Hemphill

Libby Hemphill

University of Michigan

Jahna Otterbacher

Illinois Institute of Technology

Matthew A. Shapiro

Illinois Institute of Technology; American Political Science Association (APSA)

Date Written: October 23, 2011

Abstract

Public officials use polarizing language – supporting language for one’s self versus pejorative language for others – as a means of establishing clear boundaries on certain issues. This has been explored to some degree in terms of how such language is conveyed in the traditional media, but minimal research has been done with regard to the role of polarizing language within social media. This paper explores how elected U.S. officials use potentially polarizing language (“civility,” “politeness,” and related forms) to draw in supporters. We analyze the content and behavior of more than 30,000 tweets from the available Twitter accounts of each elected member of Congress, particularly in terms of the nature (size and party composition) of Twitter networks for officials who use polarizing language. Network analysis via Network Workbench and NodeXL confirms that officials’ use Twitter for much more than broadcasting, officials’ interaction networks differ from their follower/friends networks, and polarizing language cannot be correlated with peripheral locations in a network. These indicate that Twitter plays a more nuanced role in political communication than previously expected.

Keywords: political communication, twitter

Suggested Citation

Hemphill, Libby and Otterbacher, Jahna and Shapiro, Matthew A., Going ‘Bald on Record’: Relationships Among Public Officials’ Social Media Behavior and Language Use (October 23, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2609136

Libby Hemphill (Contact Author)

University of Michigan ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Jahna Otterbacher

Illinois Institute of Technology ( email )

Matthew A. Shapiro

Illinois Institute of Technology ( email )

Department of Social Sciences
3301 S Dearborn St, SH 116
Chicago, IL 60616
United States

American Political Science Association (APSA) ( email )

1527 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

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