Twitter Language Use Reflects Psychological Differences between Democrats and Republicans

PLoS One. 2015 Sep 16;10(9):e0137422. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0137422. eCollection 2015.


Previous research has shown that political leanings correlate with various psychological factors. While surveys and experiments provide a rich source of information for political psychology, data from social networks can offer more naturalistic and robust material for analysis. This research investigates psychological differences between individuals of different political orientations on a social networking platform, Twitter. Based on previous findings, we hypothesized that the language used by liberals emphasizes their perception of uniqueness, contains more swear words, more anxiety-related words and more feeling-related words than conservatives' language. Conversely, we predicted that the language of conservatives emphasizes group membership and contains more references to achievement and religion than liberals' language. We analysed Twitter timelines of 5,373 followers of three Twitter accounts of the American Democratic and 5,386 followers of three accounts of the Republican parties' Congressional Organizations. The results support most of the predictions and previous findings, confirming that Twitter behaviour offers valid insights to offline behaviour.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Behavior
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Politics*
  • Psychology*
  • Social Networking*

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work. This work was part of KS MSc degree. During the conduct of this study, Purver was partly supported by the ConCreTe project; the project ConCreTe acknowledges the financial support of the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme within the Seventh Framework Programme for Research of the European Commission, under FET grant number 611733.