On Twitter, Conservatives and Liberals Often Speak a Different Language

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By James Eng

If conservatives and liberals never seem to understand each other, could it be that they speak a different language? On Twitter, at least, there’s growing evidence that’s partially the case.

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London dissected the vocabulary used in tweets sent between June 15 and 30, 2014, by thousands of followers of either U.S. Republican (conservatives) or Democratic (liberals) party Twitter accounts. They found that the use of some words and phrases can be dead giveaways about a person’s political leanings.

Liberals were far more likely to swear, with two particular four-letter curse words in their top 10 most used words (after the most commonly used English words were removed). They also tended to use language associated with anxiety and feelings such as “lol,” “like” and variants of “happy” and “amazing.”

Conservatives were more likely to discuss religion ( 'God' and 'psalm' being popular words), national identity (America, border) and their opponents (Obama, Obamacare, Reid, Pelosi).

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"The way people talk and interact on Twitter can provide a more robust and natural source for analyzing behavior than the traditional experiments and surveys,” Matthew Purver, from Queen Mary University of London and co-author of the report, said in a statement.

"The results closely matched our predictions based on existing understanding of political supporters' psychology. This means we could use Twitter data in future to better understand people's behavior and personality, while also using psychological research to understand more about Twitter users."

The study was published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.