Political Systems and Political Networks: The Structure of Parliamentarians’ Retweet Networks in 19 Countries

Livia van Vliet, Petter Törnberg, Justus Uitermark


Social scientists have long studied international differences in political culture and communication. An influential strand of theory within political science argues that different types of political systems generate different parliamentary cultures: Systems with proportional representation generate cross-party cohesion, whereas majoritarian systems generate division. To contribute to this long-standing discussion, we study parliamentarian retweets across party lines using a database of 2.3 million retweets by 4,018 incumbent parliamentarians across 19 countries during 2018. We find that there is at most a tenuous relationship between democratic systems and cross-party retweeting: Majoritarian systems are not unequivocally more divisive than proportional systems. Moreover, we find important qualitative differences: Countries are not only more or less divisive, but they are cohesive and divisive in different ways. To capture this complexity, we complement our quantitative analysis with Visual Network Analysis to identify four types of network structures: divided, bipolar, fringe party, and cohesive.


elite political behavior; politicians; political systems; social media; political communication

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