Paul C. Bauer, Alejandro Ecker, Michael Imre, Camille Landesvatter, Sonja Malich
Who tweets, and how freely? Evidence from an elite survey among German politicians

Research & Politics, 2023: 10, issue 1, (e-only)
ISSN: 2053-1680 (print + online)

Twitter has become one of the primary platforms for politicians to interact with the public. Consequently, research into politicians’ Twitter usage has proliferated with attempts at measuring increasingly complex concepts such as ideology or policy attitudes. So far, many of these studies either implicitly or explicitly assume that politicians’ Twitter accounts are operated by politicians themselves and that politicians are free to present their “true” attitudes and positions. We conducted an elite survey in Germany and present evidence that these assumptions only partially hold true. In our sample, only around a third of Twitter accounts are operated by the corresponding politician alone. In our view, this is a conservative estimate and should further decrease as political elites’ social media strategies professionalize over the coming years. We also find that most politicians state that there are no party guidelines regarding Twitter and that their tweets are not checked by a central authority in the party. We discuss the implications of our findings for research on social media in general.