Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

International Affairs

First Advisor

Dr. Janet Lynn Donavan

Second Advisor

Dr. Douglas Snyder

Third Advisor

Dr. Levente Szentkirályi

Abstract

Twitter is a thriving microblogging service with growing prominence in the political sphere. In this study, I examine the differences between Twitter communications and verbal communications by three heads of state and government in relation to the most recent NATO Summit in July 2018. Through a three-step analysis, including descriptive statistics, content and tone analysis, and comparative analysis, the study investigates Twitter’s influence on content and tone and its agenda-building capacity for face-to-face summits. After hand-coding over 2,000 tweets and 15 verbal communications, I find that Twitter does not support more negative content and tone among world leaders than verbal communication. Rather, a leader’s tone remains consistent on both communication platforms, suggesting the salience of personality and political strategy as well as the importance of anonymity in online behavioral disinhibition. Findings also demonstrate that, in the case of Burden-Sharing negotiations during the 2018 NATO Summit, U.S. President Trump successfully implemented Twitter as an agenda-building tool to position Burden-Sharing as a prominent Summit topic. Ultimately, I conclude that the rejection of the platform’s legitimacy for diplomatic exchanges and the lack of direct discussion between politicians on Twitter demonstrates that Twitter is not a viable replacement for face-to-face summits.

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