Political Interaction beyond Party Lines: Communication Ties and Party Polarization in Parliamentary Twitter Networks

Marc Esteve Del Valle*, Marcel Broersma, Arnout Ponsioen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)

    Abstract

    A growing body of research has examined the uptake of social media by politicians, the formation of communication ties in online political networks, and the interplay between social media and political polarization. However, few studies have analyzed how social media are affecting communication in parliamentary networks. This is especially relevant in highly fragmented political systems in which collaboration between political parties is crucial to win support in parliament. Does MPs’ use of social media foster communications among parliamentarians who think differently, or does it result in like-minded clusters polarized along party lines, confining MPs to those who think alike? This study analyzes the formation of communication ties and the degree of homophily in the Dutch MPs’ @mention Twitter network. We employed exponential random graph models on a 1-year sample of all tweets in which Dutch MPs mentioned each other (N = 7,356) to discover the network parameters (reciprocity, popularity, and brokerage) and individual attributes (seniority, participation in the parliamentary commissions, age, gender, and geographical area) that facilitate communication ties among parliamentarians. Also, we measured party polarization by calculating the external–internal index of the mentions. Dutch MPs’ communication ties arise from network dynamics (reciprocity, brokerage, and popularity) and from MPs’ participation in the parliamentary commissions, age, gender, and geographical area. Furthermore, there is a high degree of cross-party interactions in the Dutch MPs’ mentions Twitter network. Our results refute the existence of “echo chambers” in the Dutch MPs’ mentions Twitter network and support the hypothesis that social media can open up spaces for discussion among political parties. This is particularly important in fragmented consensus democracies where negotiation and coordination between parties to form coalitions is key.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages20
    JournalSocial Science Computer Review
    DOIs
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2-Feb-2021

    Keywords

    • social media
    • parliamentarians
    • polarization
    • communication ties
    • the Netherlands

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