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

See all articles by Ron Berman

Ron Berman

University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School

Shiri Melumad

Columbia University, Columbia Business School, Marketing

Colman Humphrey

University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School

Robert J. Meyer

University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department

Date Written: May 28, 2019

Abstract

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

Berman, Ron and Melumad, Shiri and Humphrey, Colman and Meyer, Robert J., A Tale of Two Twitterspheres: Political Microblogging During and After the 2016 Primary and Presidential Debates (May 28, 2019). Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 17-13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2905484 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2905484

Ron Berman (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Shiri Melumad

Columbia University, Columbia Business School, Marketing ( email )

New York, NY
United States

Colman Humphrey

University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Robert J. Meyer

University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department ( email )

700 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
3730 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6340
United States

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