Polarisation in political Twitter conversations

David Gunnarsson Lorentzen (Swedish School of Library and Information Science, University of Borås, Borås, Sweden)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Publication date: 19 May 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyse relationships and communication between Twitter actors in Swedish political conversations. More specifically, the paper aims to identify the most prominent actors, among these actors identify the sub-groups of actors with similar political affiliations, and describe and analyse the relationships and communication between these sub-groups.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected during four weeks in September 2012, using Twitter API. The material included 77,436 tweets from 10,294 Twitter actors containing the hashtag #svpol. In total, 916 prominent actors were identified and categorised according to the main political blocks, using information from their profiles. Social network analysis was utilised to map the relationships and the communication between these actors.

Findings

There was a marked dominance of the three main political blocks among the 916 most prominent actors: left block, centre-right block, and right-wing block. The results from the social network analysis suggest that while polarisation exists in both followership and re-tweet networks, actors follow and re-tweet actors from other groups. The mention network did not show any signs of polarisation. The blocks differed from each other with the right-wingers being tighter and far more active, but also more distant from the others in the followership network.

Originality/value

While a few papers have studied political polarisation on Twitter, this is the first to study the phenomenon using followership data, mention data, and re-tweet data.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable and insightful comments.

Citation

Gunnarsson Lorentzen, D. (2014), "Polarisation in political Twitter conversations", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 66 No. 3, pp. 329-341. https://doi.org/10.1108/AJIM-09-2013-0086

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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