Political elites are recognized to affect public opinions and behavior through their cues. Correct information and immediate behavioral change can save lives during public health crises, whereas polarization in elite speech may render policies less effective. I examine the polarization in the cues sent to the public by COVID-19 elites in Turkish Twitter, determined by social network analysis. By the topic modeling of tweets of each community, I find high polarization between three communities regarding their network structure and the cues in tweets. Health officials’ central message is about announcements of the daily briefing, mentioning the vaccination schedule. Pro-vaxxers discussed the vaccine’s efficacy regarding scientific phase studies. In contrast, the anti-vaxxer elites put a great emphasis on undermining the reality of the pandemic by using popular conspiracy theories such as the new world order that are planned by Bill Gates and the chips in the vaccines. These findings demonstrate the extent to which a political consensus on the COVID-19 vaccines failed to emerge immediately in Turkey.
Bio: Burak is a second-year Ph.D. student working with Prof. David Lazer at the Network Science Institute, Northeastern University. Methodologically, he uses social networks and computational text analysis techniques to study online political behavior and public opinion. His main research interests are the concentration of online information ecosystems, disinformation, and polarization. Burak completed his master's degree in Data Science at University Konstanz, with his thesis titled 'The COVID-19 Infodemics on Turkish Twittersphere. Before joining the Network Sciences Institute, Burak worked data scientist for the GMF-supported project that measured the elite public opinion on Turkish-Amerian relations.