Political discourse may not be so negative after all

A snapshot of tweets by the nation’s four major congressional leaders suggests that the tone of political discourse in America is not overly negative.

The project, conducted by students in a Media and Democracy class at St. Bonaventure University, showed that less than half of the 250 items tweeted during April by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries were negative.

The students tracked the congressional leaders’ tweets from the first day of April to the last, coding each one positive, negative or neutral.

Of the 250 tweets, 115 were negative, 108 were positive and 27 were neutral.

“While the project was not a scientific study, it did provide a glimpse into the tone of today’s political discourse,” said Jandoli Institute Executive Director Richard Lee, who taught the course. “Given the widespread perception that politics is negative, the results were somewhat surprising, especially because Twitter is a platform that often lays bare the polarization in our nation.”

McCarthy was the most prolific tweeter. He tweeted 116 times during April. His 51 negative tweets were the most among the four lawmakers as were his 50 positive tweets.

From a percentage standpoint, Schumer was the most positive tweeter. During April, 47 of his 82 tweets (52.5%) were positive.

McConnell and Jeffries tweeted less than the other two leaders, but the majority of their tweets were negative.

McConnell tweeted 16 times: 10 negative, four positive and two neutral. Jeffries tweeted 36 times: 23 negative, 9.5* positive and 3.5 neutral.

Lee said McConnell’s Twitter activity during April may have been curtailed because he was recuperating from a concussion and rib injury suffered in March. McConnell did not return to the Senate until April 17.

After all of April’s tweets were logged and coded, the students spent time breaking down and analyzing the numbers.

Among their observations was that tweeting tones did not follow party lines. Instead, they found that the minority leaders (who are of different parties) had the highest percentages of negative tweets, and the tweets from those in the majority (also from different parties) were more balanced.

*Some tweets were coded positive and neutral, accounting for the half numbers in the totals.

Categories: Jandoli Institute, Media, Politics, Research

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