Minority Opposition and Asymmetric Parties? Senators’ Partisan Rhetoric on Twitter

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24 Scopus citations


Hyper-partisanship in Congress extends from the legislative process into lawmakers’ strategic communications, but some partisans are leaning into the political rhetoric. Previous research offers competing explanations for this partisan rhetoric—one ascribed to Republicans’ asymmetric record of heightened partisan politics and another to minority party status within Congress. I investigate these different explanations in the context of congressional social media activity to examine how these competing theories of partisan rhetoric work when explicitly considering the use of partisan labels. I examine senators’ tweets over three Congresses and find support for an asymmetric model of partisan rhetoric; however, minority status relative to the White House and leadership roles bolster this effect. In addition, ideological extremism may explain senators’ willingness to use partisan communication to attack political opponents on social media. These findings expand the scope of existing theories of partisan communication and broadly speak to the intersection of power and party.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-627
Number of pages13
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 University of Utah.


  • Congress
  • Twitter
  • asymmetry
  • partisanship
  • polarization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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