Investigating political polarization on twitter: A Canadian perspective

Gruzd, Anatoliy; Roy, Jeffrey
Policy and Internet

This article investigates political polarization in social media by undertaking social network analysis of a sample of 5,918 tweets posted by 1,492 Twitter users during the 2011 Canadian Federal Election. On the one hand, we observed a clustering effect around shared political views among supporters of the same party in the Twitter communication network, suggesting that there are pockets of political polarization on Twitter. At the same time, there was evidence of cross-ideological connections and exchanges, which may facilitate open, cross-party, and cross-ideological discourse, and ignite wider debate and learning as they are observed by nonaffiliated voters and the media at large. However, what appeared to be far less likely was any increased willingness or tendency for committed partisans to shift their allegiances as a result of their Twitter engagements, and we postulate that Twitter usage at present is likely to further embed partisan loyalties during electoral periods rather than loosen them; a dynamic that would seemingly contribute to political polarization. © 2014 Policy Studies Organization.