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Liberal and Conservative Values: What We Can Learn From Congressional Tweets

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Past research using self‐report questionnaires administered to ordinary citizens demonstrates that value priorities differ as a function of one's political ideology, but it is unclear whether this conclusion applies to political elites, who are presumably seeking to appeal to very broad constituencies. We used quantitative methods of textual analysis to investigate value‐laden language in a collection of 577,555 messages sent from the public Twitter accounts of over 400 members of the U.S. Congress between 2012 and 2014. Consistent with theoretical expectations, we observed that Republican and conservative legislators stressed values of tradition, conformity, and national security (as well as self‐direction), whereas Democratic and liberal legislators stressed values of benevolence, universalism, hedonism, and social/economic security (as well as achievement). Implications for the large‐scale observational study of political psychology are explored.
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Keywords: Congress; LIWC; Schwartz circumplex model; Twitter; conservatives; federal legislators; liberals; political elites; social media; values

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2018

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