While social media has changed how humans use the internet, Twitter has drastically reformed how individuals worldwide receive their news. As news outlets fail to keep up with the rapid dissemination of information online, Twitter has become a sounding board for the political elite who leverage the platform's immediacy and virality. This study, using Quantitative Ethnography's Epistemic Network Analysis, seeks to determine if the political elite, specifically members of Congress, are leveraging Twitter to spread polarizing information to strengthen their base. In this study, extensive coding of select members of the 118th Congress was completed and compared to Voteview.com's DW-Nominate polarization scores for each studied Member of Congress. The second question looks at Twitter's algorithm. It seeks to determine if the algorithm gives preferential status to the political elite who use polarizing tweets to generate higher user engagement resulting in higher ad revenue. In the second research question, the study dives into the type of rhetoric used by Members of Congress to determine the key terms used in polarizing tweets that garner the highest engagement.

Lastly, the study intends to determine if the political manipulation of Twitter users is problematic. A review of the former President Donald Trump and Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's Twitter accounts are studied, coded, and imported into the Epistemic Network Analysis Web Tool to determine if these two leaders bear any responsibility for the subsequent insurrections that took place in Washington D.C. and Praça dos Três Poderes, Brazil. The study revealed that there is an immediate need for monitoring and potentially regulating social content as there is extensive use of highly polarizing language by the political elite that has brought with it harmful consequences.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Politics in social media; Social media –Influence; Twitter (Firm)

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Eric Hamilton