London :The vocabulary of your tweets can disclose your political leanings, with liberals using more swear words and conservatives more likely to talk about religion, according to a new study of a million tweets from over 10,000 Twitter users.
The study by researchers from the Queen Mary University of London also found that liberals use more individual words like ‘me’, while conservatives are more likely to opt for group-oriented words like ‘us.’
Researchers studied tweets sent between June 15 and 30, 2014 by followers of either Republican (conservatives) or Democrat (liberals) party Twitter accounts, and found that you can tell a lot about someone’s political leanings just from the words they use.
While liberals are more likely to swear – the researchers believe this is associated with their use of more emotionally expressive language – they are also more likely than conservatives to express positive emotions, and to use language associated with anxiety and feelings.
Conservatives are more likely to discuss religion, with ‘god’ and ‘psalm’ being popular words.
There were also clear differences in the discussion of politics and topical issues – liberals were more likely to discuss international news, frequently mentioning ‘Kenya’, where 60 people were killed in violent attacks during the time of the study, and ‘Delhi’ which was also regularly in the news at the time.
Republicans talked about their opposition most regularly mentioning Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, while Democrats conversely were more likely to talk about Dick Cheney.
Previous studies suggested that liberals have a greater sense of their own uniqueness, whereas conservatives are more likely to emphasise group identity and consensus.
This study found that this also surfaces in everyday language on Twitter, with liberals more likely than conservatives to use words like ‘I’ and ‘me’, while conservatives use words like ‘we’ and ‘our’ more.
The clear distinctions between the language used by conservatives and liberals could make it possible to identify the political leanings of tweeters, and give pollsters a greater understanding of political conversations on social media; while also suggesting that online networks might provide useful, plentiful data to better understand people’s psychological characteristics.
“Open social media provides a huge amount of data for use in understanding offline behaviour,” said co-author Matthew Purver, from Queen Mary University of London.
“The way people talk and interact on Twitter can provide a more robust and natural source for analysing behaviour than the traditional experiments and surveys,” Purver said.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.