A Tale of Two Twitterspheres: Political Microblogging During and After the 2016 Primary and Presidential Debates
55 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2017 Last revised: 25 Sep 2019
Date Written: May 28, 2019
In this research we study the process by which social media posts are created and shared during live political debates. Using data from over 9.5 million Tweets posted during and shortly after four key debates leading up to the 2016 Presidential election, we test a series of hypotheses about how Tweeting evolves over time during such events. Among our findings are that as debates progressed the content of the “Twittersphere” became increasingly decoupled from the live event, and that the drivers of the success of Tweets during the debates differed from those observed after. During the debates users acted akin to narrators, posting shorter Tweets that commented on unfolding events, with linguistic emotionality playing a limited role in sharing. But when the debates were over users acted more like interpreters, with successful posts being more elaborate and visually and emotionally rich accounts of the event. Evidence for the generalizability of the findings is provided by an analysis of Barack Obama’s last State-of-the-Union Address, where similar dynamics are observed.
Keywords: Microblogs, Social Media, Elections, Diffusion, Sentiment
JEL Classification: D71, D72, L86
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation