Politics on Twitter is changing the face of politics. Despite its origins, the internet has become an indispensable tool in contemporary politics. The rise of social media has not only affected traditional political communication platforms, but has also facilitated the creation of a networked sphere where political issues are discussed and negotiated. Moreover, political leaders have taken to the internet to promote themselves and build public opinion.
Twitter is an ideal platform to conduct discourse analysis on the various strategies politicians use to convince the public of their viewpoints. Researchers are able to study the political rhetoric, the ways in which political elites shape and present their ideas and the topics they prioritize. These tactics include the use of language, imagery, metaphors, and metaphorical reasoning. In fact, some political tweets are marked with structures representing underlying ideologies. This is a crucial concept for discourse analysis.
In recent years, a number of studies have examined the relationship between Twitter and politics. A study by Yaqub et al. looked into the use of the Twitter by presidential candidates during the 2016 US election. They studied the sentiment scores of each Tweet and found that most candidates' messages were innocuous. However, the study did not address the question of whether such tweets were a signal of an impending change in social attitudes. It also did not look at the way in which these messages reacted to social phenomena such as the Arab Spring.
Other researchers used different methods to examine the use of Twitter in political discourse. CNN performed experiments using pre-processed tweets, stopwords, and hash-tags. Similarly, Nanni et al. analyzed the last three US presidential campaigns. They also created natural language processing models from the English political manifestos of those politicians. Their findings suggest that the social sphere created by hashtags can act as a cohesive mediated public sphere.
Another interesting study conducted by Lopez-Meri et al. looked into the way in which four political parties combined old and new media in a complementary manner. Although they were unable to find any evidence of the use of hashtags in their analysis, they did find that the parties had used the Twitter as a source of information and as a platform for discussion.
Political discourse is a complex process, but a cursory examination of a number of recent studies suggests that it is also a relatively new phenomenon. For example, in the early American era, townhalls, leaflets, and other forms of verbal and visual communication served as the primary means of influencing the public. Yet, technology has been used to disrupt politics for ages. Thus, it is no surprise that Twitter is being increasingly used by politicians to promote their ideologies and their positions in elections.
Discourse analysis can be a useful tool in interpreting the hidden agendas behind political discourse on Twitter. Specifically, it can examine the strategies that politicians use to achieve their goals, which may be interpreted as glorification, deflection, or as a tool to keep the public ignorant of their real intensions. While this research is limited by the number of data available, it provides a valuable socio-cognitive perspective on how to best utilize the medium.