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On Twitter, Democrats more transparent than Republicans, study says

August 4, 2010 |  5:22 pm

John-mccain-phoneNot only does a political party determine how a member of Congress votes on issues, it also affects how he or she uses Twitter.

Republicans tend to use Twitter for outreach purposes, while Democrats use the micro-blogging service to demonstrate government transparency, according to a study at the University of Toronto.

The report's findings reflect more positively on the Lefties, portraying their online messages as more honest and open.

For a blunt description of the difference between "outreach" and "transparency," the report points to a blog post by Edward Felten, director of Princeton University's Center for Information Technology Policy.

"Here's the difference: Outreach means government telling us what it wants us to hear; transparency means giving us the information that we, the citizens, want to get," Felten wrote. "An ideal government provides both outreach and transparency."

Felten goes on to say outreach is good because it lets the government disclose what it knows and argue its policies. But when each party's message is lopsided, you never get that well-balanced breakfast of information.

The study examined the habits of every U.S. member of Congress who maintains an active Twitter account, as tracked by sites like Tweet Congress. The researchers found that politicians tend to be chattier on Twitter when they've sponsored a lot of bills.

"The benefit associated with outreach is substantial if Twitter can be used to garner public support for certain policies, which in turn, generates support from political rivals," wrote the University of Toronto's Feng Chi and Nathan Yang in the report.

So then is racking up a bunch of Twitter followers the key to political success? We're happy for Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has 1.7 million followers, but the study says more listeners does not mean more success passing bills.

Still, we'd like to see how Ashton Kutcher, and his 5.4 million followers, would fare in the Senate.

-- Mark Milian
twitter.com/markmilian

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Photo: John McCain on his cellphone. Credit: Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images

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