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Open Access Regular article

Partisan asymmetries in online political activity

Michael D Conover1, Bruno Gonçalves2*, Alessandro Flammini1 and Filippo Menczer1

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research, School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 47408, USA

2 College of Computer and Information Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, 02115, USA

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EPJ Data Science 2012, 1:6  doi:10.1140/epjds6

Published: 18 June 2012

Abstract

We examine partisan differences in the behavior, communication patterns and social interactions of more than 18,000 politically-active Twitter users to produce evidence that points to changing levels of partisan engagement with the American online political landscape. Analysis of a network defined by the communication activity of these users in proximity to the 2010 midterm congressional elections reveals a highly segregated, well clustered, partisan community structure. Using cluster membership as a high-fidelity (87% accuracy) proxy for political affiliation, we characterize a wide range of differences in the behavior, communication and social connectivity of left- and right-leaning Twitter users. We find that in contrast to the online political dynamics of the 2008 campaign, right-leaning Twitter users exhibit greater levels of political activity, a more tightly interconnected social structure, and a communication network topology that facilitates the rapid and broad dissemination of political information.