Bailey Mohr wants to know why politicians Tweet. Ready to research, this 2014 Manheim-Sterling Award winner got to work.
Mohr, a GW senior majoring in Political Communication, applied for the award in November and was selected as a recipient in December. With the help of the prize, awarded every year to two SMPA students, Mohr has been able to analyze about 15,000 Tweets to determine how politicians utilized Twitter to interact with voters during the 2014 midterm elections.
A key tool in Mohr’s research was the technology department of Gelman Library. Using a tool that allowed her to capture Twitter feeds between two specific dates, she collected thousands of Tweets into a giant spreadsheet. Mohr is focusing her research on the Tweets of every Senate candidate in the month leading up to the 2014 midterm election.
To analyze the Tweets, Mohr developed a categorizing “coding scheme”. With the help of a student assistant, she then placed each Tweet into a category, for example attack statements or statements attracting voters to polls. Also taken into account was the format of the Tweet, for example if it was a reply or if it tagged another political figure.
Because she saw it as particularly powerful in social movements around the world, Mohr decided to focus on Twitter rather than other social media platforms such as Facebook. After observing that almost every political candidate in the U.S has a Twitter account, she began to wonder if candidates use Twitter to engage voters in conversation, or to promote their own ideas.
Mohr’s interest in political communication was spurred in part by her involvement with political organizations and political strategy firms. She has previously worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri. She says these opportunities allowed her a close-up view of congressional and state legislative races.
The project, Mohr’s senior thesis, is ongoing. However, Mohr has determined that political candidates primarily use Twitter to express personal views that interact with voters on a personal level. In addition, Mohr has found that candidates also use Twitter to provide voters with an “inside look” into their campaigns.
In April, Mohr will present her findings at the annual Midwestern Political Science Association in Chicago. She eagerly awaits feedback from other scholars in the field.