The great leveler? Comparing citizen–politician Twitter engagement across three Western democracies

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Series Details Vol.17, No.2, June 2018, p223–239
Publication Date June 2018
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Social media are the great social leveler – or so some commentators would have us believe. Social media put the power of communication directly into the average person’s hands. They also present opportunities for politicians to improve their contacts with the common person – to directly share their messages with and better understand the concerns of constituents.

This study explores whether and to what extent the potential for such citizen–politician engagement is fulfilled. Deploying an original dataset of tweets from politicians in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, this exploratory study examines the interlocutors with whom politicians engage reciprocally via Twitter.

The results show that a large share of politicians’ genuinely reciprocal exchanges includes average citizens. Although there is much room for improvement, this study suggests that Twitter is indeed opening spaces for citizens and policymakers to engage one another on matters of political import.

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