Online Issue Politicization: How the Common Core and Black Lives Matter Discussions Evolved on Social Media

September 4, 2020  ·   Report

To better understand how an issue becomes politicized over time, we examine Black Lives Matter and Common Core State Standards and track how they evolved over time.

A person holds a Black Lives Matter sign at a rally.

Credit: Wikimedia


Social media present an increasingly common path to issue politicization, as the distance between policy advocates and the masses is greatly reduced. In this Data Report, we analyze the discussions on Twitter of two issues (Black Lives Matter and Common Core State Standards) as they evolved over time. We show that politicization of the issues did not take the same path, and that different types of messages and senders were influential in expanding and shaping the discussions about the respective issues. For both issues, tweets by highly followed and verified users were widely shared, and contributed to a large downstream growth in the discussion. However, the substance of tweets mattered as well, with the use of angry language strongly correlated with measures of influence, alongside the important roles played by the use of hashtags. Finally, we find evidence that in the discussion around Common Core, some topics were far more important, including broaching issues of individual freedoms and personal values.