Nav: Home

Polarized tweets reveal deep divisions in congressional COVID-19 messaging

June 24, 2020

An analysis of COVID-19-related tweets issued by members of Congress from January 17 through March 31, 2020 finds that Democrats and Republicans quickly polarized along party lines in their messaging about the virus on Twitter. The findings underscore the lack of political consensus as the crisis ballooned in the United States - a consensus that democratic countries rely on during emergencies. Democrats emphasized COVID-19 earlier, with the disparity between total Democratic and Republican tweets becoming pronounced after the CDC identified community spread in California on February 26, widening after the United States declared a national emergency on March 13, and later declining as the severity of the pandemic became undeniable. Democrats also tended to discuss the crisis more frequently, issuing a total of 19,803 tweets about COVID-19 during this time period while Republican Congress members issued 11,084 (a ratio of about 71 tweets per Democrat to 45 tweets per Republican). The parties also favored different word choices, resulting in messaging with different points of emphasis - Democrats most frequently used words such as "health," "leave," and "testing," while Republicans most frequently using words such as "together," "United States," "China," and "businesses." Jon Green and colleagues note that political elites in the United States have not always exhibited such polarization in times of crisis, with Republican and Democratic lawmakers issuing joint statements after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. To investigate polarization in congressional tweets during the COVID-19 crisis, Green et al. collected a list of Twitter handles (including multiple active accounts, both official and personal, for some Congress members) and merged them with data on members' partisanship and ideology. The researchers flagged tweets related to COVID-19, which they identified using a set of dictionaries consisting of terms used to identify a particular topic (for example, "COVID-19" could be identified as "covid," "coronavirus," or "the virus"). Next, they trained a random forest machine learning model to recognize partisanship using 70% of the tweets, then applied this model to predict party affiliations of the authors of the remaining 30% based on the content and timing of the tweets. The model correctly classified the partisanship of 76% of tweets based solely on the language used and the dates on which they were sent.

Related Video from Science's Digital Media Department:https://youtu.be/jNa7PaLNVVU This video should be used in its entirety, not modified. Please credit to Science/AAAS.
-end-


American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related Virus Articles:

Smart virus
HSE University researchers have found microRNA molecules that are potentially capable of repressing the replication of human coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2.
COVID-19 - The virus and the vasculature
In severe cases of COVID-19, the infection can lead to obstruction of the blood vessels in the lung, heart and kidneys.
Lab-made virus mimics COVID-19 virus
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have created a virus in the lab that infects cells and interacts with antibodies just like the COVID-19 virus, but lacks the ability to cause severe disease.
Virus prevalence associated with habitat
Levels of virus infection in lobsters seem to be related to habitat and other species, new studies of Caribbean marine protected areas have shown.
Herpes virus decoded
The genome of the herpes simplex virus 1 was decoded using new methods.
A new biosensor for the COVID-19 virus
A team of researchers from Empa, ETH Zurich and Zurich University Hospital has succeeded in developing a novel sensor for detecting the new coronavirus.
How at risk are you of getting a virus on an airplane?
New 'CALM' model on passenger movement developed using Frontera supercomputer.
Virus multiplication in 3D
Vaccinia viruses serve as a vaccine against human smallpox and as the basis of new cancer therapies.
How the Zika virus can spread
The spread of infectious diseases such as Zika depends on many different factors.
Fighting the herpes virus
New insights into preventing herpes infections have been published in Nature Communications.
More Virus News and Virus Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.