As social media sites have become significant arenas for political debate in recent years, this paper investigates the political debate that took place on Twitter in the wake of the Swiss referendum on the Nuclear Withdrawal Initiative, which was conducted in November 2016. Using Twitter data of 3000 users, we could identify 7 distinct communities that varied in terms of their size, position, and contribution to the debate. The most dominant communities in the debate were the Conservative Mainstream and the Green-Left communities. Moreover, our findings show that communities supporting and opposing the initiative differ with regard to the wording they use in their tweets. Finally, our results reveal an active exchange both within and, even more importantly, between the communities, which indicates a rather pluralistic and internally connected debate. Thus, our findings clearly contrast with those of prior studies concerning political debates on social media that identified pronounced echo chambers.
Arlt, D., Rauchfleisch, A., & Schäfer, M. S. (2018). Between Fragmentation and Dialogue. Twitter Communities and Political Debate About the Swiss “Nuclear Withdrawal Initiative”. Environmental Communication. doi:10.1080/17524032.2018.1430600. Link to Article