With its 316 million active monthly users, Twitter sees an average of 58 million tweets a day. Topics range from sports to funny cat videos to, of course, politics. With the election coming up soon, politics will become an even more popular topic to discuss. But can your tweets actually show which political party you affiliate with, even if you don’t mention it?
Apparently, they can. From June 15 to June 30, 2014, researchers at Queen Mary University of London looked over tweets sent by followers of the Republican and Democratic Party Twitter accounts. After poring over more than a million tweets from 10,000 Twitter users, they found that liberals cursed more and used more individual words like “me,” while conservatives were more likely to talk about religion and use group words like “us.”
Once commonly used English words were removed, liberals were most likely to use the curse words “f---” and “sh--”; the researchers suggested their use of foul language was due to a need to emotionally express themselves. Liberals were also more likely than conservatives to express more positive emotions, as well as language associated with anxiety and feelings. Meanwhile, conservatives’ most commonly used words were associated with religion — God and psalm were two popular ones.
It’s no surprise there were clear dividing lines between what liberals and conservatives tweeted. Liberals focused more on international news and incidents; Kenya was mentioned frequently — 60 people there had been killed in violent attacks during the study — as well as Delhi, where an illegally constructed building collapsed and killed 10 people. When it came to mentions of President Obama, liberals weren’t the one’s talking about him. Rather, it was Republicans, who often tweeted about their opposition to him, as well as others like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Liberals, when tweeting about public figures, were more likely to tweet about Dick Cheney.
The information found in this study could help pollsters during the 2016 election and beyond, as the language of the tweeters allows for easier identification of people’s political leanings. "Open social media provides a huge amount of data for use in understanding offline behavior,” co-author Dr. Matthew Purver said in a press release. “This means we could use Twitter data in the future to better understand people's behavior and personality, while also using psychological research to understand more about Twitter users."
Source: Purver, M, et al. Twitter Language Use Reflects Psychological Differences between Democrats and Republicans. PLOS One . 2015.