Tearing Apart The Online Electorate: How the Social Media of the Political Parties Polarizes the American Public

Kenneth Meyer


Comparing the social media accounts of a sample of Republican and Democratic parties, this study measures the influence of political Facebook and Twitter accounts on American electoral polarization. It opens by reviewing the literature on the link between electoral polarization and new media. The research then tracks the Facebook groups and Twitter handles of the Republican and Democratic national committees, California state parties, Texas state parties, and Florida state parties across the summer of 2011. This tracking includes a qualitative content analysis coding the posts of these sixteen accounts for negativity and constituent organizing. It audits the amount of community interaction engendered by the eight Facebook groups. It finally categorizes by ideological slant a sample of the accounts following the eight Twitter handles. Illustrating through these methods how the sixteen party accounts build highly partisan social media communities, the study concludes that Republican and Democratic new media endangers American democracy by effecting extensive polarization of the online electorate.


Partisanship; Polarization; Social Media

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