Matt Shapiro is presenting our paper – Going “Bald on Record”: Relationships Among Public Officials’ Social Media Behavior and Language Use – at this week’s Korean Association for Public Administration and American Society for Public Administration Joint International Conference. Can’t make it to Korea for the talk? Read the abstract after the jump. Jahna Otterbacher also contributed to this paper.
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.