Quantifying Political Leaning from Tweets and Retweets

author: Felix Ming Fai Wong, Department of Electrical Engineering, Princeton University
published: April 3, 2014,   recorded: July 2013,   views: 2030

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Media outlets and pundits have been quick to embrace online social networks to disseminate their own opinions. But pundits’ opinions and news coverage are often marked by a clear political bias, as widely evidenced during the fiercely contested 2012 U.S. presidential elections. Given the wide availability of such data from sites like Twitter, a natural question is whether we can quantify the political leanings of media outlets using OSN data. In this work, by drawing a correspondence between tweeting and retweeting behavior, we formulate political leaning estimation as an ill-posed linear inverse problem. The result is a simple and scalable approach that does not require explicit knowledge of the network topology. We evaluate our method with a dataset of 119 million election-related tweets collected from April to November, and use it to study the political leaning of prominent tweeters and media sources.

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