The next presenter on this AoIR 2013 panel is Christian Christensen, whose interest is in the minority parties in the US presidential election. He examined the tweets of four minority parties, defined as parties which had enough ballot listings across the states to technically be able to win the election: the Libertarians, the Greens, the Constitution Party, and the Justice Party. This, then, is a study of third party politics - and such parties have traditionally adhered to a polarising and populist style of politics.
In combination, the four parties' candidates had some 129,000 Twitter followers, led by the Libertarians with 100,000. They tweeted only a limited amount of time during the campaign, mostly during the debates and on the day before Election Day. Retweets of their tweets were often centred around a small number of original tweets, and were more or less proportional to their total number of followers.
Key issues raised by these parties were military, security, and human rights parties (drones, veteran affairs, surveillance, and the Bradley/Chelsea Manning case); the failure of the two-party system; and corporate power. This can be seen as enhancing content value in conversational ecologists, by riding waves of Twitter activity (e.g. around the debates) or by jumping on pre-existing hashtags like #election2012 or #debate.
But what is the relationship between offline power and online presence and representation? Is the existing offline support base related to the online resonance for these parties? Can even the small support base for these third parties affect the outcomes of narrow electoral races? Can Twitter be used as a bellwether for more marginal political perspectives, and a space for the discussion of such marginal perspectives which are not afforded significant space in the mainstream media? Do they indicate an undercurrent of dissatisfaction which is not addressed in mainstream media?