In their own words, ‘Yes’ Republicans look more like Democrats than ‘No’ Republicans

October 17, 2013

Earlier this month, our Social Media and Political Participation laboratory at New York University released a word cloud of the tweets by members of Congress in the 24 hours leading up to the federal government shutdown in The Monkey Cage. We had to follow up, of course, so here are word clouds* from tweets by Democratic and Republican members of Congress in the 24 hours surrounding the end of the government shutdown, essentially from about 1 p.m. Wednesday through 1 p.m. Thursday:

Wordcloud of tweets by members of congress by party in 24 hours surrounding end of government shutdown (Figure: Pablo Barbera; Data: smapp.nyu.edu)
Word cloud of tweets by members of Congress by party in the 24 hours surrounding the end of the government shutdown (Figure: Pablo Barbera; Data: smapp.nyu.edu)

It’s no surprise that Democrats were tweeting about the “government” that was going to “reopen” after the “shutdown” was due to “end,” while Republicans were still tweeting about “debt”, “spending” and “#obamacare.”

However, look what happens when we split Republicans into those who voted for the bill to reopen the government and increase the debt limit and those who voted against the measure:

Wordcloud of tweets by members of congress by Democrat, Republican Yes Vote, and Republican No Vote, in the 24 hours surrounding end of government shutdown (Figure: Pablo Barbera; Data: smapp.nyu.edu)
Word cloud of tweets by members of Congress by Democrat, Republican Yes Vote, and Republican No Vote, in the 24 hours surrounding the end of the government shutdown (Figure: Pablo Barbera; Data: smapp.nyu.edu)

“Yes” Republicans look more like the Democrats than they do their fellow “No” Republicans! The “Yes” Republicans were most likely to mention government and — like the Democrats — also tweeted about “default” and the fact that government was going to “reopen.” The word clouds of both the Democrats and the “Yes” Republicans also contain the word “bipartisan,” which is missing from the “No” Republican word cloud. Indeed, about the only real overlap between the most common words used by “Yes” and “No” Republicans appears to be the continuing focus on debt, which was not among the most popular words used by Democrats. And, particularly telling, one word that’s noticeably smaller in the “Yes” Republican word cloud compared with the “No” Republican word cloud (and missing entirely from the Democratic word cloud): #obamacare.

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*For the #TextAsData folks out there, we removed the most common stopwords using a dictionary (that includes “the”, “and”, “will”, etc.), as well as words shorter than three characters, digits, and URLs to create the wordclouds. Figures created by Pablo Barbera.

Joshua Tucker is a Professor of Politics at New York University. He specializes in voting, partisanship, public opinion, and protest, as well as the relationship of social media usage to all of these forms of behavior, with a focus on Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
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David Karol · October 17, 2013