Republican candidates spent last night trying (and succeeding) to convince an audience that liberals and conservatives are very different. They spoke about health care and immigration and gave themselves code names for some reason, but mostly they just overcomplicated the issue. Want to know if someone is a donkey or an elephant? Just look at their Twitter page.
A new study by researchers from Queen Mary University of London shows how tweet behavior reveals underlying personality differences between those on the left and right. Liberals are likelier to swear and talk about themselves, using “I” and “me” a lot, while conservatives use words like “psalm” and refer to themselves as part of a “we” or an “us.” Conservatives are also more likely to get others involved by mentioning people in tweets.
Karolina Sylwester and Dr. Matthew Purver examined followers of the Democrats’ and Republicans’ respective Twitters, as well as their corresponding congressional pages. After sorting through all the dummy accounts and eggs, they gathered the tweets and found Democratic followers’ talking about their feelings (using words like “happi, shit, fuck, like, feel, amaz”) much more frequently than their Republican counterparts, who prefer the nuts and bolts of democracy: “illeg, lie, vote, administr, impeach, defund, clotur.”
This behavior doesn’t apply only to political events — liberals got way more into the 2014 World Cup than conservatives — but a quick search through last night’s #GOPDebate hashtag seems to show that the trends track.
These tweeters aren’t alone. As Sylwester and Purver predict, many conservatives think of the collective while liberals share their personal reactions.
Still not convinced? Here’s a liberal’s mundane tweet, followed by a conservative’s:
Sylwester and Purver’s study does have implications beyond Twitter amusement. Political scientists are always eager to learn more about the connection between ideology and behavior. Candidates can better understand and cater to their base by doing an impression of their supporters.
Cursing on Twitter is the new putting on dad jeans in Iowa.