Political Debate Intensifies on Twitter

A new study in Nordicom Review shed light on the relationships between social media and mainstream media, comparing two televised party leaders’ debates before the 2014 general election in Sweden with the activity on Twitter.

The election debate on Twitter followed the agenda of mainstream media, but with a surprisingly strong focus on left-right policy issues. Contrary to the authors’ expectations, issues on the left-right policy dimension were more salient on Twitter than in the debates, whereas issues such as the environment, immigration and refugees, all tied to a liberal-authoritarian value axis, were less salient on Twitter. 

Social media have been thought to introduce a new dimension of agenda-setting, but the five authors conclude that Twitter followed the agenda set by mainstream media:

During mediated events … the social media agenda is strikingly similar to that of the traditional mass medium, indicating that the agenda of mainstream media strongly influence what, when and how political issues are addressed in other media.

– This study is important to understand how issue salience forms and evolves on social media during mediated political events, says author Linn A. C. Sandberg. 

Read  ”Issue Salience on Twitter During Swedish Party Leaders’ Debates”  by Linn A.C. Sandberg, Ulf Bjereld, Karina Bunyik, Markus Forsberg & Richard Johansson in Nordicom Review.

Photo: Jonatan Svensson Glad