Progressive Tweeting

Will Gries, Ben Nielsen, Eric Haberkorn

Tweeting about health care reform is extremely popular right now and one of the most active groups of people tweeting about it is progressives. We captured the stream of tweets containing the #p2 hash tag that progressives use. The progressives are a unique part of the health care reform tweets because of their extreme views on the topic. The data we captured spanned from 11:01 AM until 2:32 PM on November 20th, 2009, and consisted of 1533 messages. Tweeting using the #p2 hash tag has been fairly unchanged over the past 30 days with the biggest spikes in messages coming between 10 AM and 10 PM Central Time most every day. Overnight, tweeting generally fell to about .02%, and then usually rose to about .10% at some point during the day.

External references were often used to refer to other members and re-tweet common messages. There was a total of 935 at-replies (@) used in the tweets we captured, meaning that approximately 61.0% of messages contained them. Re-tweeting was also popular with 994 RT’s used in our data which means approximately 64.8% of messages contained them. Many of the tweets contained links (http://) to news articles or other websites as well. Of our messages, 934 contained links which is about 60.9% of the total messages. Overall, most of the messages had some sort of external reference in them to point to an article, popular tweet, or other Twitter member.

We found the top six tweeters that used the #p2 hash tag, each of whom had at least 20 tweets or about 2.5% or more of all our tweets. Their Twitter ID’s are: thejoshuablog, TPPatriots, NaiveAbroad, Cody_K, GregWHoward, and bigedlynn. Only one of these users, thejoshuablog, began tweeting before 2009 and only two of them have less than 13,000 status updates since they began.


Thejoshuablog tweeted 44 times during the period we captured tweets containing #p2. This was the most tweets that any twitter user had containing #p2 and his tweets totaled 5.58 percent of the tweets we captured. Of thejoshuablog’s 44 tweets, 39 contained retweets, 39 had at-replies, and 34 contained links to websites. On thejoshuablog’s website, he describes himself as “I'm a gay, progressive, political blogger, born & bred in New York. I started blogging because I was really pissed off at what 8 years of Bush/Cheney did to my country. This is not the America I was brought up to believe in. It's going to take a generation to repair their damage. My intent with this blog is to aggregate news from a progressive viewpoint; not to defend my beliefs or debate conservathugs on the validity of their warped worldview. I don't mind posting contrary viewpoints, as long as they don't include conspiracy theories, flat out lies, GOP talking points or racist, xenophobic & homophobic attacks. Unfortunately, I haven't had many right-leaning visitors who have left comments fit that bill. Oh, and I like to curse.”

Thejoshuablog follows 1212 people and 1959 people are following him. Since thejoshuablog started using twitter in June 2008, he has had 27447 status updates. Some people are clearly enjoying thjoshuablog’s tweets because more and more people follow his twitter account over time. When analyzing thejoshablog’s tweets, it quickly becomes apparent that the description he provides on his blog correctly describes his tweets. He tweets about anything that is pro-liberal and anti-conservative. Some of the topics that thejoshuablog frequently talked about in the data we captured are health care, Sarah Palin, Fox News, and Obama. As the mention map shows, thejoshuablog frequently mentions thinkprogress, americablog, and dailydish, while using hash tags like #p2 and #digg. Many progressives use the #p2 hash tag to associate their tweets with other progressives. Digg is a social news site where users submit and vote on stories they believe are popular. Thejoshuablog uses #digg to tell his followers to ‘digg’ the stories he is referring to. Thejoshuablog is a liberal news source that uses #p2 to categorize his tweets as progressive.


TPPatriots started using twitter in October 2009 and has had 876 status updates since he started using the service. In the twitter data we captured, TPPatriots had the second most tweets of any user. TPPatriots tweeted 32 times, which was 4.06 percent of the total tweets in our data. TPPatriots is following 217 people and is followed by 487 people. Overtime, the number of followers TPPatriots has had has increased. On TPPatriots’ website,, the authors describe the purpose of their site as, “Tea Party Patriots is helping 40,000 proud but struggling American farmers who have been reduced to daily food lines just to feed their kids.” On another part of the site it says, “This website provides you with the opportunity to offer your innovative free market, limited government solutions to our nation’s pressing problems and to vote and comment on the ideas of others. We believe that the result of this grassroots-generated marketplace of ideas will be a document that not only represents the will of the American people, but promotes unique ideas that will breathe new life into the economic conservative movement.” From this description, it is clear that TPPatriots is a conservative website and twitter user.

By reading TPPatriots’ tweets, it quickly becomes clear that the primary focus of TPPatriots is to support the free market and lower taxes. According to, TPPatriots most common topics are tea party, patriots, and grassroots. These topics are also frequently talked about in the tweets we captured. Mentionmap shows that TPPatriots regularly uses the hash tags #p2, #teaparty, and #912. #p2 is used to categorize progressive tweets, #teaparty refers to the tax protests that occurred earlier this year, and #912 refers to Glen Beck’s project that supports conservative values. TPPatriots uses #p2 so they can mix their mix conservative tweets in with more common liberal tweets under the tag.


NaiveAbroad tweeted 30 times using the #p2 hash tag in the data we captured. NaiveAbroad’s tweets ended up being 3.81percent of the total tweets captured containing #p2. NaïveAbroad has tweeted 13190 times since he began using twitter in February 2009. NaiveAbroad’s followers have steadily increased over time to the 21283 he currently has. NaïveAbroad follows 22062 people. In NaiveAbroad’s twitter bio, I found information about NaiveAbroad. Marcus Wilder describes himself as, “Reader, writer, traveler, rifleman, horseman, street fluent in Spanish and German. I walk with a stout blackthorn stick.” Unlike many twitter users, NaiveAbroad’s political views are not apparent from his twitter bio. When reading NaiveAbroad’s tweets, Marcus Wilder’s political views are still difficult to figure out. His tweets were about a variety of topics such as Oprah quitting, Global Warming, and Obama bowing to foreign leaders. His tweets are unbiased kind of like a press release. From the topics that NaiveAbroad talks about, it seems like he may be a conservative. Many liberals would not have linked to the leaked emails that exposed the scientists who modified the climate change data. According to, NaiveAbroad’s most common topics are rt, suit, and ir64r. NaiveAbroad does, however, tweet about a variety of topics. The mentionmap shows that NaiveAbroad’s most common hash tags are #sgp (Smart Girl Politics), #palin (Sarah Palin), #p2 (progressives), and #tcot (top conservatives on twitter). These hash tags do not reveal anything about NaiveAbroad’s political views. The twitter users that NaiveAbroad is most connected to are jfkisgr8, welshman007, blackbarbie_, and leyale. These users tweet about the same topics NaiveAbroad tweets about. NaiveAbroad’s twitter account is more like a news source than most political twitter users. NaiveAbroad presents interesting news stories, while not providing his opinion, so his followers can interpret the stories for themselves.


Cody_K was the fourth most active tweeter during the timeframe we recorded for the hashtag #p2. From 11:51 AM to 2:31 PM on November 20th, 2009, Cody_K sent twenty-seven messages, most containing original content (only two were re-tweets), nearly all containing a shortened hyperlink, and most using more than one hashtag besides #p2. According to, a site that aggregates information on Twitter users using Twitter’s API, Cody_K joined Twitter in February 2009 and has had 48375 since his join date. He has 3628 followers and in turn follows 666 users. Additionally, he has a website ( and posted this in the one line bio: “Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow... Don't walk behind me, I may not lead... Just go stand over there somewhere.”

From Cody_K’s report, it is quite difficult to determine his political persuasion. He uses both conservative hashtags like #tcot, and liberal ones, like #p2, the hashtag we are researching. The “Recent Topics” section yielded little more information than Cody_K’s interest in politics and his willingness to use profanity in his tweets. After examining the Tweets that The Archivist collected however, it became clear that Cody_K represents a liberal viewpoint in his Tweets. All of Cody_K’s twenty-seven tweets mock top conservatives or liberals who apparently don’t fit in with his particular viewpoint. Additionally, the links in Cody_K’s tweets point to a variety of more liberal sites, most notably the Huffington Post.

From the Archivist record of Cody_K’s tweets and the report, we can conclude that Cody_K uses his high volume of tweets and followers, as well as commonly used political hashtags from both sides of the aisle, to drive traffic to liberal websites or articles he favors by using provocative and sometimes offensive language to grab users’ attention when navigating through heavily tweeted topics.


GregWHoward was the fifth most active tweeter during the timeframe we recorded for the hashtag #p2. From 11:11 AM to 12:59 PM on November 20th, 2009, GregWHoward sent twenty-three messages, all except one containing original content. Like Cody_K, the fourth most active tweeter, GregWHoward too used a variety of conservative and liberal hashtags in his tweets. According to, GregWHoward joined Twitter in March 2009 and has had 36566 tweets since his join date. He has 6093 followers and in turn follows 6159 users. Additionally, he has a website ( and posted this in the one line bio: “21st Century Minuteman, Husband, Father, Patriot, Former Marine, Financial Planner, Christian Musician. Life is good!! #tcot #912 #finance”.

Unlike Cody_K, we can assume that GregWHoward is of the conservative viewpoint because of his exclusive usage of conservative hashtags in his bio. Like Cody_K however, it could be difficult to interpret his view point based solely on the aggregated data from Twitter’s API by He uses both conservative and liberal hashtags quite frequently. Unlike Cody_K, his “Recent Topics” section has more variety in topics, though still dominated by political topics.

The tweets recorded by Archivist for GregWHoward might not represent a very good sample of his normal Twitter usage as he appears to be having a pretty in depth argument with another Twitter user by the username of OxyConservative. Though we only get half of the argument, GregWHoward accuses OxyConservative of causing other Twitter users to make death threats against him and his wife. Additionally, GregWHoward says he has reported OxyConservative to the FBI through his father-in-law, an ex-FBI agent and made several complaints to Twitter for violation of Twitter’s terms of service. GregWHoward’s remaining tweets are simply about Obama’s poll numbers.


bigedlynn was the sixth most active tweeter during the timeframe we recorded for the hashtag #p2. From 12:49 AM to 1:28 PM on November 20th, 2009, bigedlynn sent twenty-three messages, all except one containing original content. Unlike Cody_K and GregWHoward, bigedlynn used very few hashtags beyond #p2 and primarily stuck with liberal tags if additional tags were used. According to, bigedlynn joined Twitter in January 2009 and has had 1000 tweets since his join date. He has 167 followers and in turn follows 157 users. Additionally, he has a website ( and posted this in the one line bio: “I take pictures, and try to make the world a better place”.

From bigedlynn’s tweets and hashtag usage, it was fairly obvious that he represents the liberal view. confirms this by showing heavy usage of #p2 and other liberal hashtags. Most of bigedlynn’s tweets were actually just the same tweet directed at different users: “@[username] NEED YOUR HELP! PLZ RT: Act NOW to stop a GOP filibuster of #HCR bill debate! It's NOW or NEVER!NOW! #P2”. Only five tweets did not conform to this pattern.

Additionally, it seems like bigedlynn fills a slightly different role than Cody_K, in that he primarily tries to encourage action in real life rather than simply directing twitter users to liberal websites to increase their profile.

When looking at the Twitter users who commonly tweet with the hash tag #p2, many different viewpoints can be found. The most common tweeter, Thejoshuablog, represents a very liberal viewpoint as does Cody_K. Both users often use sarcasm and profanity to get their points across and attack conservatives that they feel are doing harm to our country. The other liberal-leaning user was bigedlynn, but he tended to encourage followers to take action rather than attack politicians and other groups. These three users represent the true “progressive” twitter user that uses the #p2 hash tag, whereas the other three prefer to use it to inject their more conservative views or news stories into the #p2 stream of communication.

TPPatriots and GregWHoward are of the conservative viewpoint and use the #p2 hash tag along with conservative hash tags to insert their comments into many streams of communication. However, GregWHoward is a father, former marine, and financial planner, whereas TPPatriots is the Twitter account of the grassroots organization Tea Party Patriots. TPPatriots tends to use Twitter to push for tax cuts and free markets because they claim to be a group of struggling farmers. Finally, NaiveAbroad commonly used the #p2 hash tag, but seems to be more of a news source than leaning either way politically. He wants to use the #p2 hash tag among others to inject their stories into the streams of communication to create awareness of different issues.

The Twitter users that commonly use the hash tag #p2 are very diverse. Some use it to promote their progressive liberal views because it is the hash tag associated with progressives. But some people also use it to inject conservative views into the stream to create controversy and awareness of their views as well. Also, some use it to report news stories that may be of interest to progressives or other politically active Twitter users.

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