Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

The Use of Twitter for Political Purposes in Slovenia

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

The Use of Twitter for Political Purposes in Slovenia

Article excerpt

Introduction

Slovenia is a relatively young state, established in 1991 after the demise of Yugoslavia. The end of the Yugoslav socialist period and the emergence of an independent Slovenian state was accompanied by the establishment of party democracy with two opposing blocks: the right and left wing, each comprising several parties (details on Slovenian political development in Hacek et al., 2013, Bebler, 2002, Makarovic et al., 2011). According to the study by FAAS (2009), about a third of population declared itself to be more right wing oriented, a third left or middle-left oriented, while a third remained neutral. The first has had strong support primarily among the catholic, and rural population, while the left wing has been gaining the majority of votes from the urban, more educated and higher income population (FAAS, 2009). During these two decades, the Slovenian political arena has been very dynamic, marked with vibrant, controversial, and (too often) historically conditioned political loyalty and historically driven opinions, often resulting in second-best outcomes (see Tos and Mueller, eds., 2005).

Recently, the use of the World Wide Web (WWW) in political communication generally and in Slovenia has been increasing (Mueller, 2010, Fink-Hafner, 2012); political discussions are increasingly moving to parties' web pages, blogs, Facebook and, recently, also Twitter (for a comprehensive overview see Jungherr, 2014). All parliamentary parties in Slovenia have their own web-pages, and all parties, currently in parliament, use Twitter, the youngest and most specific among the existing social media tools (3).

The purpose of this article is to examine the nature of political communication via Twitter. We investigate two aspects. First, we analyse the general nature of political communication via Twitter. We hypothesize that given the nature of Twitter messages (shortness) and the relative penetration of Twitter in comparison to Facebook/web in general, Twitter will be used primarily to inform and not so much to promote political ideas. Second, in case, when Twitter is used to promote political ideas or policy agendas, we investigate to what extent the messages are used also to convince the public of the importance of the undertaken economic reforms. Namely, despite the fact that the messages in Twitter are short, they can be also very efficient in promoting specific ideas. For instance, 'Tax evasion will lead to poorer healthcare'. Thus, we investigate to what extent Twitter has been used to promote the need for economic reform in Slovenia. Especially, since in the past few years, due to the poor economic situation, a lot of unpopular reforms have been implemented, we assume that this aspect could also be important, probably much more than in the rest of the EU (see Godnov and Redek, 2014a for a discussion of EU15). And last, given the nature of political communication in Slovenia, where negativism/criticism has been quite common lately, we also investigate the sentiment of political communication via Twitter. The question is very relevant in political science, as attested by a quickly expanding body of literature (Ghiassi et al., 2013, Mejova et al., 2013, Jungherr, 2014).

In order to analyse the nature of political communication via Twitter and the nature of messages, we collected data (tweets) of political parties and individual politicians, members of Parliament during the last election period (since 2011). To analyse the nature and content of the tweets, a content and sentiment analysis using primarily R was done.

The article is structured as follows: first, a theoretical motivation positioning Twitter among other tools of political communication is provided. Second, we present the empirical background to the analysis, primarily Twitter penetration in Slovenia in comparison to other countries of the EU and other social media. Third, we discuss political communication in Slovenia, starting with methodology. …

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