Mapping the Political Twitterverse: Candidates and Their Followers in the Midterms
Twitter provides a new and important tool for political actors. In the 2010 midterm elections, the vast majority of candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and virtually all candidates for U.S. Senate and governorships used Twitter to reach out to potential supporters, direct them to particular pieces of information, request campaign contributions from them, and mobilize their political action. Despite the level of activity, we have little understanding of what the political Twitterverse looks like in terms of communication and discourse. This project seeks to remedy that lack of understanding by mapping candidates and their followers according to their use of hashtags (keywords) and user mentions (direct mentioning of other Twitter users). We have a unique data set constructed from tweets of most of the candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, all the candidates for the Senate and governorships, and a random sample of their followers. From this we utilize multidimensional scaling to construct a visual map based on hashtag and user mention usage. We find that our data have both local and global interpretations that reflect both political leaning and strategies of communication. This study provides insight into innovation in new media usage in political behavior in particular and a bounded topic space in general.