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Negativity in Politicians' Communication during Campaign and Regular Times

Exeter Q-Step/NCRM Summer Research Methods Seminar Series, by Dr Bruno Castanho Silva, University of Cologne

Bruno Castanho Silva, Lennart Schürmann, and Sven-Oliver Proksch While research on the tone of politicians' rhetoric has picked up steam in recent years, almost all of our knowledge on factors that influence negativity is based on political communication during electoral campaigns.

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In this paper we expand this by using a dataset with all tweets posted by every member of national parliaments in the EU28 between 2018 and 2020, which includes 19 national elections plus the 2019 European Parliament elections. We compare politicians' sentiment during campaign to non-campaign times, and find that that during elections governing parties become more negative while opposition parties become more positive. This, however, does not apply to populists and extremists, whose rhetoric remains negative regardless of timing. These findings show the need to look beyond campaign times to better understand parties' discourse and appeals, and highlight the promises of social media data to go beyond what is possible with traditional analyses of manifestos.
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