Make Tweets Great Again: Who Are Opinion Leaders, and What Did They Tweet About Donald Trump?

Ilo Aguiar Reginaldo Alexandre, Joseph Yoo, Dhiraj Murthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Twitter gained new levels of political prominence with Donald J. Trump’s use of the platform. Although previous work has been done studying the content of Trump’s tweets, there remains a dearth of research exploring who opinion leaders were in the early days of his presidency and what they were tweeting about. Therefore, this study retroactively investigates opinion leaders on Twitter during Trump’s 1st month in office and explores what those influencers tweeted about. We uniquely used a historical data set of 3 million tweets that contained the word “trump” and used Latent Dirichlet Allocation, a probabilistic algorithmic model, to extract topics from both general Twitter users and opinion leaders. Opinion leaders were identified by measuring eigenvector centrality and removing users with fewer than 10,000 followers. The top 1% users with the highest score in eigencentrality (N = 303) were sampled, and their attributes were manually coded. We found that most Twitter-based opinion leaders are either media outlets/journalists with a left-center bias or social bots. Immigration was found to be a key topic during our study period. Our empirical evidence underscores the influence of bots on social media even after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, providing further context to ongoing revelations and disclosures about influence operations during that election. Furthermore, our results provide evidence of the continued relevance of established, “traditional” media sources on Twitter as opinion leaders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
Journal Social Science Computer Review
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - May 2021

Keywords

  • Twitter
  • Influence
  • Social Media
  • Trump
  • Opinion leadership

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