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A hyperlink and issue network analysis of the United States Senate: A rediscovery of the Web as a relational and topical medium

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Abstract

Politicians' Web sites have been considered a medium for organizing, mobilizing, and agenda-setting, but extant literature lacks a systematic approach to interpret the Web sites of senators—a new medium for political communication. This study classifies the role of political Web sites into relational (hyperlinking) and topical (shared-issues) aspects. The two aspects may be viewed from a social embeddedness perspective and three facets, as K. Foot and S. Schneider (2002) suggested. This study employed network analysis, a set of research procedures for identifying structures in social systems, as the basis of the relations among the system's components rather than the attributes of individuals. Hyperlink and issue data were gathered from the United States Senate Web site and Yahoo. Major findings include: (a) The hyperlinks are more targeted at Democratic senators than at Republicans and are a means of communication for senators and users; (b) the issue network found from the Web is used for discussing public agendas and is more highly utilized by Republican senators; (c) the hyperlink and issue networks are correlated; and (d) social relationships and issue ecologies can be effectively detected by these two networks. The need for further research is addressed.

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