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Depolarizing Polarity: Data Mining Shared Likes on Twitter to Uncover Political Gateway Groups

February 20, 2020


Abstract: This project applies a new theory in the field of intergroup conflict known as "Gateway group theory," which posits that to decrease conflict between two groups, a third group with specific characteristics that appeal to both sides needs to be identified, enabling them to act as a medium. This group is known as a "Gateway group." With the background of the bitter digital divide and echo chambers plaguing the United States’ current political discourse, this paper sought to find the Gateway group between polar Democrats and Republicans on Twitter. 

This project data mined and examined the shared “likes” of these two populations using originally developed code and definitional parameters. Then, the study analyzed the profiles of the authors of these liked Tweets to compile an aggregated Gateway group profile that can be used to find Gateway group individuals on Twitter who have the ability to decrease conflict between Democrats and Republicans. The study found that Gateway group members exist. They are a group of Moderate Democrats. Every post that was liked by both a Democrat and Republican was also tagged and analyzed for similarities in content. It was found that 55% of all posts referenced “Trump” and 92% of those votes had a negative sentiment. Additional similarities in content were found, for example a keen interest in elections and certain Democratic candidates. This project develops an effective methodology that can be applied to any conflict on Twitter to find the Gateway group for that conflict to decrease polarity between polar groups.

Keywords: Gateway group theory, Democrat and Republican, political discourse, Twitter


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