Official yet questionable: Examining misinformation in U.S. state legislators' tweets

Study analyze the content of 3,345,232 tweets posted by over three-thousand accounts of U.S. state lawmakers throughout all of 2020 and 2021 and finding that Republicans share far more---an order of magnitude more---misinformation than do Democrats.

By Yuehong Cassandra Tai, Roan Buma, Bruce A. Desmarais in Research


We study the roles of elected officials in the dissemination of misinformation on Twitter. This is a particularly salient online population since elected officials serve as primary sources for many stakeholders in the media, government, and industry, as well as the mass public. We analyze the content of tweets posted by over three-thousand accounts of U.S. state lawmakers throughout all of 2020 and 2021. Specifically, we identify the dissemination of URLs that are linked to unreliable content. Our starkest finding is that Republicans share far more—an order of magnitude more—misinformation than do Democrats. In addition, we uncover distinct patterns in the temporal trends of tweets and those of tweets that are associated with misinformation across party lines and states. By delving into the content of tweets referencing unreliable URLs, we find discussions pertaining to election integrity, abortion, COVID-19 policies, and immigration. Furthermore, Republicans exhibit a greater inclination towards engaging in partisan attacks—a finding that is consistent with the literature on asymmetric polarization. At the state level, we also find that topics are more state-specific. These findings add substantially to our understanding of misinformation, political communication, and state politics.

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Topics in Legislators’ Unreliable Tweets


Posted on:
September 5, 2023
1 minute read, 206 words
misinformation state politics text analysis
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