Twitter and Political Elections

Twitter and Political Elections

Fabian Ströhle (Technische Universität München, Germany) and Timm Sprenger (Technische Universität München, Germany)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0315-8.ch084


The rise of Twitter has changed human communication behavior not only in the political domain, but also in many other fields. Individuals are increasingly using microblogging platforms like Twitter for political deliberation, making full use of the features offered for discussions and social networking. At the same time, politicians and political parties hop on the bandwagon, using Twitter to reach a larger audience and communicate to constituents. As is the case for blogs, the political Twittersphere is fragmented along party lines, but stimulates communication between different ideological clusters. The publicly available discussions on Twitter can serve as a basis for election forecasts and have the potential to complement opinion polls and prediction markets in the future.
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The relevance of the microblogging platform Twitter ( and social media in general for political elections and for political deliberation online is illustrated best by the fact that Barack Obama turned to Twitter to announce “We just made history...” right after winning the presidential election in 2008. His campaign was supported by a successful social media campaign with over 700,000 supporters on Facebook (Williams & Gulati, 2008) and 100,000 followers on Twitter, compared to approximately 5,000 for John McCain (Lardinois, 2008). In 2009, more than 1.5 million users followed John McCain on the microblogging platform Twitter (Senak, 2010) to read his messages and in 2010, 22% of online adults engaged with the election through social networks (Smith, 2011). Since 2006 microblogging through Twitter has become a mass phenomenon on the Internet. One year after its launch, approximately 0.4 million people were registered on Twitter (Ruiz, 2011). Five years later, Twitter adds approximately 0.5 million accounts per day, while its users are pressing the “tweet” button around 1 billion times a week (Twitter, 2011).

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