Modeling Polarizing Topics: When Do Different Political Communities Respond Differently to the Same News?
Keywords:graphical models, political science
Political discourse in the United States is getting increasingly polarized. This polarization frequently causes different communities to react very differently to the same news events. Political blogs as a form of social media provide an unique insight into this phenomenon. We present a multitarget, semisupervised latent variable model, MCR-LDA to model this process by analyzing political blogs posts and their comment sections from different political communities jointly to predict the degree of polarization that news topics cause. Inspecting the model after inference reveals topics and the degree to which it triggers polarization. In this approach, community responses to news topics are observed using sentiment polarity and comment volume which serves as a proxy for the level of interest in the topic. In this context, we also present computational methods to assign sentiment polarity to the comments which serve as targets for latent variable models that predict the polarity based on the topics in the blog content. Our results show that the joint modeling of communities with different political beliefs using MCR-LDA does not sacrifice accuracy in sentiment polarity prediction when compared to approaches that are tailored to specific communities and additionally provides a view of the polarization in responses from the different communities.