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Twitter Adoption in Congress: Who Tweets First?

Chi, Feng and Yang, Nathan (2010): Twitter Adoption in Congress: Who Tweets First?

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Abstract

Our general objective is to characterize the recent and well publicized diffusion of Twitter among politicians in the United States 111th House of Representatives. Ultimately, Barack Obama, Facebook and peers matter when it comes to the propensity and speed of Twitter adoption. A basic analysis of the distribution of first Tweets over time reveals clustering around the President's inauguration; which holds regardless whether the adopter is Democratic or Republican, or an incumbent or newcomer. After we characterize which representatives are most likely to adopt Twitter, we confirm the widespread belief that Facebook and Twitter are indeed complementary technology. Given their perceived desire for accessible government, a surprising result is that Republicans are more likely to adopt Twitter than Democrats. Finally, using the exact dates of each adopter's first Tweet, we demonstrate that the diffusion of Twitter is faster for those representatives with a larger number of peers already using the technology, where peers are defined by two social networks: (1) Politicians representing the same state; and (2) politicians belonging to the same committees; especially so for those in committee networks. We later argue that this observed behavior can be rationalized by social learning. To complete our characterization of Twitter use in congress, we demonstrate the existence of opportunity costs, using ex post usage statistics for each adopter; participation is constrained by how many bills a representative has initiated, as well as whether he/she already participates in Facebook.

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