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U.S. Congressional Mention Networks

I used the Twitter Database Server and my own Twitter-collectors to gather 42,813 tweets posted by 417 elected members of Congress (69 Senators and 348 Representatives) between December 22, 2011 and March 15, 2012. From those tweets, I made a network based on when Members of Congress mentioned each other and used NodeXL to analyze and graph the data. Here are some preliminary results from that network of 2613 mentions.

First, a graph of the whole network. Here, the nodes are colored by their parties (blue for Democrat, red for Republican, yellow for independent), and the edges are colored by whether the source and target are in the same target (blue or red) or if the source and target are from different parties (yellow). The first thing I notice is how different this graph looks from Adamic and Glance’s “Divided They Blog” graph. The divide between parties is less extreme in the Congressional mentions network. Neither graph though, bloggers or MOCs, can tell us whether connections are attacks or endorsements. I think that on Twitter a cross-party mention is likely an attack, but I need to dig into the text of tweets to be sure. If I’m right though, and cross-party mentions are attacks, I find it interesting that Democrats are more likely to mention Republicans than the other way around (at least in this dataset). I think being the minority party in the House drives much of that – i.e. House Democrats are criticizing the House Republican leadership. Again, I need more data to be sure.

I’m working on a paper with Jahna Otterbacher and Matt Shapiro to answer some of these questions and to better understand how Congressional Twitter networks reflect and differ from their offline networks. For instance, do lower-influence MOCs (by offline measures like bill cosponsorship and seniority) garner more influence online than they do on the Hill?  Can social media networks predict alliances or other legislative behaviors? We’re also analyzing what Congress is talking about so we can answer questions such as “Do social media conversations impact the legislative agenda?” and “Do MOCs forefront different issues in social media than they do in traditional media?” All of these questions are part of my broader goal to understand relationships between social media and social action. Baby steps. Stay tuned.

Click for bigger version at NodeXL graph gallery

So, what do you think ?

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