Moral discourse in the Twitterverse: Effects of ideology and political sophistication on language use among U.S. citizens and members of Congress

Joanna Sterling, John Jost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We analyzed Twitter language to explore hypotheses derived from moral foundations theory, which suggests that liberals and conservatives prioritize different values. In Study 1, we captured 11 million tweets from nearly 25,000 U.S. residents and observed that liberals expressed fairness concerns more often than conservatives, whereas conservatives were more likely to express concerns about group loyalty, authority, and purity. Increasing political sophistication exacerbated ideological differences in authority and group loyalty. At low levels of sophistication, liberals used more harm language, but at high levels of sophistication conservatives referenced harm more often. In Study 2, we analyzed 59,000 tweets from 388 members of the U.S. Congress. Liberal legislators used more fairness- and harm-related words, whereas conservative legislators used more authority-related words. Unexpectedly, liberal legislators used more language pertaining to group loyalty and purity. Follow-up analyses suggest that liberals and conservatives in Congress use similar words to emphasize different policy priorities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-221
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Language and Politics
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Fingerprint

US citizen
loyalty
ideology
fairness
discourse
language
Group
twitter
resident
Sophistication
Ideology
Moral Discourse
Language Use
Values
Authority
Loyalty
Harm
Language
Legislators

Keywords

  • Basic values
  • Morality
  • Political ideology
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

@article{e6d05ed946de4df6b90caecb8020982d,
title = "Moral discourse in the Twitterverse: Effects of ideology and political sophistication on language use among U.S. citizens and members of Congress",
abstract = "We analyzed Twitter language to explore hypotheses derived from moral foundations theory, which suggests that liberals and conservatives prioritize different values. In Study 1, we captured 11 million tweets from nearly 25,000 U.S. residents and observed that liberals expressed fairness concerns more often than conservatives, whereas conservatives were more likely to express concerns about group loyalty, authority, and purity. Increasing political sophistication exacerbated ideological differences in authority and group loyalty. At low levels of sophistication, liberals used more harm language, but at high levels of sophistication conservatives referenced harm more often. In Study 2, we analyzed 59,000 tweets from 388 members of the U.S. Congress. Liberal legislators used more fairness- and harm-related words, whereas conservative legislators used more authority-related words. Unexpectedly, liberal legislators used more language pertaining to group loyalty and purity. Follow-up analyses suggest that liberals and conservatives in Congress use similar words to emphasize different policy priorities.",
keywords = "Basic values, Morality, Political ideology, Psycholinguistics, Social cognition",
author = "Joanna Sterling and John Jost",
year = "2018",
month = "1",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1075/jlp.17034.ste",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "17",
pages = "195--221",
journal = "Journal of Language and Politics",
issn = "1569-2159",
publisher = "John Benjamins Publishing Company",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Moral discourse in the Twitterverse

T2 - Effects of ideology and political sophistication on language use among U.S. citizens and members of Congress

AU - Sterling, Joanna

AU - Jost, John

PY - 2018/1/1

Y1 - 2018/1/1

N2 - We analyzed Twitter language to explore hypotheses derived from moral foundations theory, which suggests that liberals and conservatives prioritize different values. In Study 1, we captured 11 million tweets from nearly 25,000 U.S. residents and observed that liberals expressed fairness concerns more often than conservatives, whereas conservatives were more likely to express concerns about group loyalty, authority, and purity. Increasing political sophistication exacerbated ideological differences in authority and group loyalty. At low levels of sophistication, liberals used more harm language, but at high levels of sophistication conservatives referenced harm more often. In Study 2, we analyzed 59,000 tweets from 388 members of the U.S. Congress. Liberal legislators used more fairness- and harm-related words, whereas conservative legislators used more authority-related words. Unexpectedly, liberal legislators used more language pertaining to group loyalty and purity. Follow-up analyses suggest that liberals and conservatives in Congress use similar words to emphasize different policy priorities.

AB - We analyzed Twitter language to explore hypotheses derived from moral foundations theory, which suggests that liberals and conservatives prioritize different values. In Study 1, we captured 11 million tweets from nearly 25,000 U.S. residents and observed that liberals expressed fairness concerns more often than conservatives, whereas conservatives were more likely to express concerns about group loyalty, authority, and purity. Increasing political sophistication exacerbated ideological differences in authority and group loyalty. At low levels of sophistication, liberals used more harm language, but at high levels of sophistication conservatives referenced harm more often. In Study 2, we analyzed 59,000 tweets from 388 members of the U.S. Congress. Liberal legislators used more fairness- and harm-related words, whereas conservative legislators used more authority-related words. Unexpectedly, liberal legislators used more language pertaining to group loyalty and purity. Follow-up analyses suggest that liberals and conservatives in Congress use similar words to emphasize different policy priorities.

KW - Basic values

KW - Morality

KW - Political ideology

KW - Psycholinguistics

KW - Social cognition

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85046907538&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85046907538&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1075/jlp.17034.ste

DO - 10.1075/jlp.17034.ste

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:85046907538

VL - 17

SP - 195

EP - 221

JO - Journal of Language and Politics

JF - Journal of Language and Politics

SN - 1569-2159

IS - 2

ER -