The relationship between political affiliations and diet-related discussions on social media has not been studied on a population level. This study used a cost- and -time effective framework to leverage, aggregate, and analyze data from social media. This paper enhances our understanding of diet-related discussions with respect to political orientations in U.S. states. This mixed methods study used computational methods to collect tweets containing "diet" or "#diet" shared in a year, identified tweets posted by U.S. Twitter users, disclosed topics of tweets, and compared democratic, republican, and swing states based on the weight of topics. A qualitative method was employed to code topics. We found 32 unique topics extracted from more than 800,000 tweets, including a wide range of themes, such as diet types and chronic conditions. Based on the comparative analysis of the topic weights, our results revealed a significant difference between democratic, republican, and swing states. The largest difference was detected between swing and democratic states, and the smallest difference was identified between swing and republican states. Our study provides initial insight on the association of potential political leanings with health (e.g., dietary behaviors). Our results show diet discussions differ depending on the political orientation of the state in which Twitter users reside. Understanding the correlation of dietary preferences based on political orientation can help develop targeted and effective health promotion, communication, and policymaking strategies.
Keywords: diet; health; politics; social media; text mining.