Computational Social Scientists at Stony Brook University Find Evidence Americans Identify with Their Politics More than their Religion

STONY BROOK, N.Y., Feb. 26, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — In new research to be published in the March issue of the Journal of Social Computing, researchers Nick Rogers and Dr. Jason J. Jones present evidence that politics is overtaking religion within the American psyche.

The pair concocted a novel method to quantitatively study self-identity over time for millions of individuals.  They used automated computer scripts to observe publicly available tweets from 2015 through 2018 and calculated the prevalence of profiles in which the user chose political, religious or other categories of words to describe themselves.  “Americans on the site are adding political words to their bios at a higher rate than any other category of words we measured, and are now more likely to describe themselves by their political affiliation than their religious affiliation.” they write in the research article.

The authors recently revisited the work to evaluate whether the trend continues.  “We looked at data through the end of 2020.  We see the Sports and Arts categories in relative decline, Religion stable and Politics increasing every year,” the study’s lead author, graduate student Nick Rogers, said.  “As an example, if you took a random sample of Americans who were tweeting in 2016, many more of them would use the word ‘Christian’ to describe themselves in their profile than ‘MAGA.’  In 2019 and 2020 that was no longer true.”

The authors believe there are two driving forces behind these temporal trends.  Dr. Jones said, “First, the Twitter platform attracts political discussion and therefore Americans for whom politics is an important aspect of their identity.  Second, there is also evidence for change within individuals.  The same trend of political affiliation overtaking religious affiliation is present in the longitudinal subset of the data.  These are users who we can observe in every year 2015 through 2020 and draw inferences about how their bio profiles are changing.”

The article is entitled “Using Twitter Bios to Measure Changes in Self-Identity: Are Americans Defining Themselves More Politically Over Time?” and is available under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License at

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