To Whom Do Politicians Talk and Listen? Mapping Swiss Politicians’ Public Sphere on Twitter


public sphere
semi-automated content analysis
popularity cues


Politicians use social media platforms to connect with the public. However, who constitutes the public sphere to whom politicians actually talk and listen remains largely unknown, especially because network characteristics determine individuals’ visibility. Focusing on the Twitter network of all Swiss MPs, I identified 129,063 Twitter users with whom politicians connected (i.e., their follower–followee network) or to whom they talked and listened (e.g., [were] replied to or retweeted). I conducted a qualitative network analysis to describe the network and a semi-automated content analysis of the Twitter users to classify them (N = 70.589). The results show that the network is partially dominated by a power–law distribution of attention and is clustered by national languages but not ideology. Politicians talk primarily to citizens, who also react most often to the politicians’ messages. However, politicians listen more often to actors close to politics and the media than to citizens.

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