Information Networks and Social Media Power in Congress

Cantay Caliskan, Dino Christenson


This paper analyzes the diffusion of hashtags across the Twitter accounts of members of Congress. Doing so provides insights into the social networks in Congress and general information diffusion among them. Here we ask: (i) What leads politicians to use hashtags at different points in time? (ii) How does the shape of information diffusion differ among politicians and the public? (iii) Which politicians are the sources of information diffusion? To answer these questions, we collect data from 658 Twitter accounts, over 81,000 different hashtags, and 780,000 tweets. A susceptible-infected-susceptible (SIS) dynamic network model identifies a number of politicians who are important actors in information diffusion. Additionally, to identify macro-scale signs of the discursive epidemic, the paper uses several dimension reduction techniques, as well as linear and logistic regression models. The results indicate that younger, Republican politicians with higher social network power more easily diffuse hashtags than others. The diffusion of information is more aligned with the public on domestic than foreign issues. Also, younger, Democratic, and female politicians are more effective in using social media in general.

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