CPSA/CCA2013 - The Tea Party, Social Media and the Emergence of Online Politicking 3.0

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Presentation at CPSA/CCA2013 panel on Web politics.

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CPSA/CCA2013 - The Tea Party, Social Media and the Emergence of Online Politicking 3.0

  1. 1. The rise of the Tea Partymovement Meteoric ascendency of the Tea Party movement sinceFebruary 2009: 2008 economic downturn; Socio-demographic tensions (e.g.: LTN); Immense distrust of Barack Hussein Obama. Powerful force in political landscape: Special Massachusetts Senate contest in January 2010; 2010 Midterm election cycle; 2012 Presidential election cycle. Progressive loss of traction since November 2012(mutation?).Sources: Skocpol and Williamson, 2012; Karpowitx, Monson et al., 2011; Disch, 2011; Boehme, 2011; Smith, 2013
  2. 2. Why study the Tea Partymovement? Two pivotal movements in early 2009: Rant by CNBC’s Rick Santelli on foreclosure relief onFebruary 19, 2009 (e.g.: Homeowners Affordabilityand Stability Plan (HTSP)); “Porkulus” rallies organized by conservative politicalactivists and blogger Kelli Carender (opposition to thehealth care reform);Sources: Skocpol and Williamson, 2012; Disch, 2011; Berg, 2011; www.redistributingknowledge.blogspot.ca
  3. 3. The rise of the Tea Partymovement Two visions of the Tea Party movement;1. Movement spearheaded by conservative elitesand promoted by the Fox News Channel: “Genetically modified grassroots organization(GMGO)” (Bratich, 2011: 342); Astroturf political phenomenon.2. Birth of a new form of politicking (“onlinepolitical 3.0”) – Big-store vs. Boutique populism.Sources: Skocpol and Williamson, 2012; Mascaro, Novak et al., 2012; Gaby and Caren, 2012; Sawchuk, 2012
  4. 4. Online politicking 3.0 Traditional political actors have been the main driversbehind Web politics since 1996; Turning point in 2004? Kreiss (2011: 380): The Dean campaign “reshaped thecultural grounds of Internet politics”; Gibson (2012: 79): The Obama campaign’s presence in theWeb 2.0 mediascape had “reprogramming” effects on e-electioneering; Reengagement of the public in the electoral process. Same old top-down, controlled approach: Campaigns driven by influential political figure; Campaigns focusing on a small set of broad-based issues.Sources: Gibson and Ward, 2012; Gibson, 2012; 2013; Foot and Schneider, 2006
  5. 5. Online politicking 3.0 Two (2) main factors fuelling the rise of onlinepoliticking 3.0:1. Emergence and popularization of social media platforms aspolitical communication, mobilization, and organizingchannels;2. Acquisition by a growing portion of the public of postmodern political dispositions anchored in personal valuessuch as: Freedom; Creativity; Assertiveness; Empowerment.Sources: Gil de Zúñiga, Jung et al., 2012; Bennett, Wells et al., 2009; 2011; Christensen, 2011
  6. 6. Online politicking 3.01. Hyper fragmentation of e-politicking: Shattering of the collective political awareness; Emergence of constantly evolving micro-political realitiestailored to often extremely narrow preferences, interests,and objectives; Direct threat to coherent democracies and establishedleadership structures.Sources: Kim, 2011; Bennett, 1998; Bimber, 2005Two complementary phenomenaMultiple axes of fragmentation: Ideology; Themes; Credibility; Etc.
  7. 7. Online politicking 3.02. Hyper decentralization of e-politicking: Diffusion of the initiative, the execution, and the control ofdigital political communication, mobilization, andorganizing; Rapidly growing number of individuals and organizationswith wide-ranging concerns and objectives;Two complementary phenomenaThree axes of decentralization:1. Decentralization of digital political contentproduction and sharing processes;2. Decentralization of the structure of e-politicking;3. Decentralization of formal and informal politicalorganizations.
  8. 8. Online politicking 3.0 Three (3) axes of hyper decentralization:1. Mobilization of previously peripheral and often resource-poor political players: Social media have lowered the threshold topolitical participation (e.g.: technical expertise,financial resources, time, etc.); Post modern political dispositions haveencouraged users to engage in highlyentrepreneurial or personalized digitalparticipatory patterns (“micro-activism”).Hyper decentralizationSources: Cogburn and Espinoza-Vasquez, 2011; Carlisle and Patton, 2013; Christensen, 2011; Chi and Yang, 2010; Papacharrissi, 2009Rapid incubation of digital “hipster narcissism” (Chi and Yang,2010) or identity-centered egoism of a political nature
  9. 9. Online politicking 3.0 Three (3) axes of hyper decentralization:2. Redefinition of information flows and social relations: Distinct interactive capabilities of social mediahave given Internet users more opportunities tointeract with each other and, to some extent,develop and maintain relationships that can be thesource of political dividends; Conversely, social media channels havecontributed to traditional political players’ loss ofcontrol on information flows and socialinteractions.Hyper decentralizationSources: Gil de Zúñiga, Jung et al., 2012; Himelboim, Lariscy et al., 2012; Gurevitch, Coleman et al., 2011Initiatives to regain control
  10. 10. Online politicking 3.0 Three (3) axes of hyper decentralization:3. Decentralization of formal and informal politicalorganizations: Political parties and socio-political institutions areprogressively losing their relevance, credibility,and influence among the electorate; Their “command and control” approach is notadapted to the post modern political dispositionsof a growing portion of the public; Adoption of the “post modern political organizingmodel” (Carty, 2010: 161) – “post bureaucraticorganizations” (Bimber, Flanagin et al., 2005).Hyper decentralizationSources: Gunther and Diamond, 2003; Bennett, Wells et al., 2009; 2011; Carty, 2011
  11. 11. Methodology Quantitative content analysis of #teaparty discourseon Twitter: Tweets with at least one #teaparty hashtag postedbetween December 9, 2009 at 22h41 +0000 and March19, 2011 at 15h40 +0000 (Midterm elections); Twapper Keeper for data mining and archiving (open-source); MySQL and Gephi (version 0.8.1 beta) for dataanalysis; Challenges and opportunities.Sourc: Wilson and Dunn, 2011
  12. 12. #TEAPARTYSource: Wilson and Dunn, 2011; Mascaro and Goggins, 2012Overview of the results Overview of the #teaparty dynamic: 1,747,306 tweets with at least one #teaparty hashtag(“big data” study); Few studies examining Twitter-based socio-politicalphenomena: Short periods of time; Relatively small datasets. 79,564 unique tweeters contributed at least on micro-blog entry; Impossible to verify independently if all tweets werecollected; 96.64 per cent of the #teaparty tweets with all thecorrect information (technical issue affecting 3.36% ofthe dataset).
  13. 13. #TEAPARTY050,000100,000150,000200,000250,000300,00051,19768,20460,40547,78750,349156,680129,215174,582181,122204,575275,408198,59642,35733,7003,113 11,391Monthly volume of #teaparty tweets(per number of tweets)Monthly #teaparty tweeting volume
  14. 14. #TEAPARTYParticipation in #teaparty tweeting02,0004,0006,0008,00010,00012,00014,00016,00018,00020,0004,6066,190 7,5347,089 8,69514,55212,21914,80413,35916,48519,43519,5815,8627,8201,5964,002Monthly number of unique twitterers who contributedat least once to the #teaparty conversation (per number of twitterers
  15. 15. #TEAPARTYParticipation in #teaparty tweetingNumber of tweets Number of unique tweeters Percentage1 40,691 51.142 10,388 13.063 5,225 6.574 3,208 4.03 25.2 per cent of the 79,564 unique #teaparty tweetersshared 5 tweets or more; 4,284 “vocal” Twitter users posted 50 tweets or more(5.38 per cent of all #teaparty tweeters); Non-vocal tweeters collectively “louder” than vocaltweeters.Source: Mascaro and Goggins, 2012
  16. 16. #TEAPARTYParticipation in #teaparty tweeting The “boutique” nature of the Tea Party movement:Organization Number of #teaparty tweetsTea Party Patriots 2,553Tea Party Nation 105FreedomWorks 5Tea Party Express 0ResistNet 0
  17. 17. #TEAPARTYParticipation in #teaparty tweetingPolitical or media personality Number of #teaparty tweetsAndrew P. Napolitano 35Glenn Beck 12Rush Limbaugh 5Dick Armey 0Sarah Palin 0 The “boutique” nature of the Tea Party movement:
  18. 18. #TEAPARTYParticipation in #teaparty tweetingSenate contenders Number of #teaparty tweetsJoe W. Miller (Alaska) 921Christine O’Donnell(Delaware)168Sharron Angle (Nevada) 102Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania) 2Jim DeMint (North Carolina) 1Rand Paul (Kentucky) 0Ken Buck (Colorado) 0Marco Rubio (Florida) 0 The “boutique” nature of the Tea Party movement: Most of them were active in the Twitterverse.
  19. 19. #TEAPARTYNumber of@replies877Number of nodes 654Number of edges 648Average degree 0.991December 14, 2009to December 20,2009#teaparty social interactions
  20. 20. #TEAPARTY#teaparty social interactionsNumber of@replies4,280Number of nodes 2,630Number of edges 3,131Average degree 1.19October 25, 2010 toOctober 31, 2010
  21. 21. #TEAPARTYNumber of@replies4,424Number of nodes 3,258Number of edges 3,542Average degree 1.087November 1, 2010to November 7,2010#teaparty social interactions
  22. 22. #TEAPARTYInvolvement in #teaparty tweetingNumber of@replies688Number of nodes 807Number of edges 624Average degree 0.773January 10, 2011 toJanuary 16, 2011
  23. 23. Conclusion The #teaparty conversation was fuelled in a hyperdecentralized manner by large and diverse pool ofordinary Internet users with wide-rangingpreferences, interests, and goals; The Tea Party movement constitutes an essentiallyleaderless political mobilization phenomenon with adecentralized and constantly evolving organizationalstructure pointing towards the democratization ofpopulism; The Tea Party blueprint will most likely inform ourunderstanding of politics in the future.

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