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Conservatives more effective than liberals on Twitter: study

  • November 16, 2021
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 7:30 a.m.
  • English Press

By Komiyama Ryoma, staff writer

 

Conservatives’ political messages on social media reach neutral voters better than those of their liberal counterparts through plain emotional expressions and friendlier interactions, according to a survey.

 

A team of researchers from the Toyohashi University of Technology, the University of Tokyo and the City University of Hong Kong found that supporters of Shinzo Abe, a conservative former prime minister, had better success than critics of Abe in sharing their views on Twitter with a wider range of people.

 

“This may be among the reasons for the prolonged reign of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party,” a team member said.

 

According to the researchers, voters’ personal likings of politicians can affect the level of support for their policies.

 

Past studies have shown that sympathy for a prime minister can greatly sway the political stances of Japanese voters.

 

The team analyzed 130 million posts that contained the word “Abe” in katakana and kanji on Twitter from February 2019, when Abe was prime minister, through October 2020 immediately following his resignation.

 

After examining accounts that were prone to retweet the same posts, the team identified two large networks of Twitter users: those who supported Abe and those critical of him.

 

A member of one network tweeted, for example, “Thank you for your long and hard work, Prime Minister Abe.” A member of the other network described Abe and lawmaker Taro Aso as “the worst prime minister and deputy prime minister in the postwar period.”

 

The team categorized accounts that posted aggressively in both of the networks as either “conservative” or “liberal” voters.

 

The others who uploaded messages less frequently were deemed nonpartisan and “moderate.”

 

The team’s analysis showed that 23 percent of posts by the conservative users were retweeted to the neutral group. The retweet ratio was as low as 6 percent for the liberal group’s messages.

 

A closer examination of the posts found that the words “anger,” “hatred” and other emotional phrases appeared more frequently in the conservative comments than in the liberal remarks.

 

Emotional words are said to help information go viral.

 

In their comments about current affairs and other issues, the conservatives tended to use colloquial adjectives that resembled those of the moderate posters, the study found.

 

If a moderate user followed an account, conservatives followed back in 62 percent of the cases, compared with 51 percent for liberals, the study found.

 

“Liberals looking to push forward their social movement with citizens should pay attention (to the study results) so that they can form connections with those who have different political opinions,” said team member Mitsuo Yoshida, a former assistant professor at the Toyohashi University of Technology who is now an associate professor of computational social science at the University of Tsukuba.

 

“But, at least in the social media study, such acts were detected more often among conservatives,” he said.

 

The findings have been published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports at (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-98349-2)

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