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Why Do Politicians Tweet? [Study]

With the announcement of Twitter’s recent hire of a D.C. rep to train politicians on their tweeting habits, it’s clear that politicians are using Twitter now more than ever before. Two economic researchers from the University of Toronto saw the growing presence of politicians on Twitter, and wanted to find out exactly why the Washington elite is flocking to the microblogging service. While “more exposure” or “to campaign” might be the knee-jerk answers to this questions, the research findings are much more surprising.

The Freakonomics blog picked up the story of Feng Chi and Nathan Yang, the two economists from University of Toronto who wrote a research paper about the tweeting habits of the U.S. Congress. You can find the full paper available online at the Social Science Research Network.

The researchers find that the success of previous Twitter adopters – other Congresspeople who have achieved relatively high Twitter followings – will speed up the rate at which non-Twitter politicians begin creating their own accounts. Nothing too surprising there.

However, there are also some interesting observations in this paper about geography that might show a hidden link between politicians who adopt Twitter and successful Twitter adoption within their home state in the past.

The paper states that there might be an “information advantage” with respect to geography when looking at whether a politician will adopt Twitter or not. Politicians see faster growth on their Twitter accounts if there has been past success (i.e. increased followers) for other politicians within their home state. Basically, a politician is likely to experience more success with Twitter if other politicians within their home state have also had a good experience with Twitter.

Does that mean that certain states have more successful tweeting politicians than others? The data didn’t get that indepth, but it would be an interesting question to explore in the future.

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