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
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.