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Developing a Virtual Constituency
AdvisorHerzik, Eric B.
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These papers examine how the scope of representation has evolved through thedevelopment of the social media tool, Twitter. Specifically, I argue that the role ofconstituents has expanded beyond the four traditional constituencies: geographic,reelection, primary, and personal, due to the creation of social media, to include a newconstituency which I have named the virtual constituency. The first paper, Discovering aNew Constituency: A Theoretical Analysis, theorizes the existence of the virtualconstituency and where the virtual constituency fits in the broader scheme ofrepresentation as a whole. The second paper, Congressional Tweets, Discovering a NewConstituency, focuses on candidates running for Congress and how Twitter usage amongcandidates affects campaign donations. The third paper, Is the Virtual ConstituencyPaying Attention? An Analysis of Ideology, analyzes the role of ideology as it relates tothe likelihood of individual donating to twitter subscribing candidates from outside theindividual’s congressional district.Discovering a New Constituency: A Theoretical Analysis looks at howrepresentation has been viewed by political science research and builds upon thisunderstanding. In this paper, I theorize that that advancements in technology, specificallythe Internet and social media, have created a new constituency: the virtual constituency.Congressional Tweets, Discovering a New Constituency compares Twitter subscribingcandidates to non-Twitter subscribing candidates from both inside and outside thecandidate’s Congressional district. The strongest evidence for the existence of the virtualconstituency is the subset of non-incumbent candidates. This group was able to useTwitter to look outside their district and earn fewer dollars per donation, but more total iicampaign donations, and more total dollars overall than non-incumbents who did not useTwitter in the 2008 congressional campaign season. The final paper, Is the VirtualConstituency Paying Attention? An Analysis of Ideology, analyzes the relationshipbetween United States House candidate’s ideology and the individual ideology ofcampaign donors from out-of-district contributions. My findings indicate Twitter isfacilitating larger donations from ideologically similar candidates. Instead, virtualconstituents are acting like any other group of donors by donating larger amounts perdonations to candidates that are most ideologically similar.