Title

Exploring political discussions by Korean twitter users: A look at opinion leadership and homophily phenomenon

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

January 2014

Abstract

Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to provide a network analysis of Twitter discussions about Myung-Bak Lee, a former president of South Korea, to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of the public opinion exchange on Twitter.Design/methodology/approach– Opinion leaders in the discussion network were identified by considering the longitudinal distribution of tweets containing the former president’s name, and three types of messages (“followings,” “mentions,” and “retweets”) were analyzed using data collected from November 1, 2011, to April 20, 2012. The sample included 26,150 Twitter users and 892,034 relationships reflecting three types of messages.Findings– The results indicate that the discussion about President Myung-Bak Lee was dominated by liberal Twitter users who already had considerable influence both online and offline. In addition, Twitter users were unlikely to interact with other users with opposing political views.Research limitations/implications– Almost all of the opinion leaders identified in the study held liberal political views, and liberal Twitter users dominated the discussion network. In addition, the Korean Twitter network showed the presence of the homophily phenomenon, implying that opinion leaders’ influence within the Twitter network was limited to other users sharing the same political views. Further, political views of opinion leaders were skewed toward a particular political stance without necessarily representing the opinion of the general public, possibly hindering the democratic process.Originality/value– This study tests the homophily thesis in the context of Twitter users in Korea and contributes to the literature on Twitter-based political discourse by identifying opinion leaders in Korean Twitter networks and examining the phenomenon of homophily within those networks.