#Zuma Must Fall This February: Homophily on the Echo-Chambers of Political Leaders’ Twitter Accounts

  • Rofhiwa F. MukhudwanaEmail author


This chapter explores the challenges caused by political polarisation (homophily) and populism propelled by the propensity to create one’s own echo-chamber of like-mindedness in social media. The research question guiding this study is: To what extent do the Twitter accounts of selected political leaders in South Africa evidence the presence of echo-chambers, homophily and populism during a political crisis such as #ZumaMustFall and what is the relationship between these three concepts? The finding is that albeit there is homophily as politicians attempt to create their own echo-chambers, Twitter brings forth diversity as the public (tweeps) permeates political echo-chambers searching for resonate political opinions. Furthermore, the study found a direct link between populism and homophily as well as a link between politicians’ personalities and their political communication styles on Twitter. I argue, therefore, that echo-chambers are not necessarily a negative political challenge in the second generation of digital democracy as they are an alternative form of political deliberation that is unique from the singular argumentative public sphere to the fragmentation of many agreeable public spheres, which taken together may create informed and rational debates.


Political polarisation Homophily Echo-chambers Populism Political communication styles Social media 


  1. Abertazzi, D., & McDonell, D. (2008). Twenty-first century populism: The spectre of Western Europe democracy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social media and fake news in the 2016 election. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(2), 211–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Banisch, S., & Olbrich, E. (2019). Opinion polarization by learning from social media. Journal of Mathematical Sociology, 43(2), 321–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barbera, P., Jost, J. T., Nagler, J., Turcker, J. A., & Bonneau, R. (2015). Tweeting from left to right: Is online communication more than an echo chamber? Psychological Science, 26(10), 1531–1542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blumler, J. G. (1999). Political communication system all change: A response to Kees Brants. European Journal of Communication, 14(2), 241–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blumler, J. G. (2018). The crisis of public communication, 1995–2017. Javnost – The Public, 25(1–2), 83–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bracciale, R., & Martella, A. (2017). Define the populist political communication style: The case of Italian political leaders on Twitter. Information, Communication & Society, 20(9), 1310–1329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Colleoni, E., Rozza, A., & Arvidsson, A. (2014). Echo Chamber or public sphere? Predicting political orientation and measuring political homophily on Twitter. Journal of Communication, 64(x), 317–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dahlgren, P. (2005). The internet, public spheres, and political communication: Dispersal and communication. Political Communication, 22(2), 147–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ekman, M., & Widholm, A. (2015). Politicians as media producers. Journalism Practice, 9(1), 78–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Engesser, S., Ernst, N., Esser, F., & Buchel, F. (2017). Populism and social media: How politicians spread a fragmented ideology. Information, Communication & Society, 20(8), 119–1126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Enli, G. A., & Skogerbo, E. (2013). Personalised campaigns in party-centred politics. Information, Communication & Society, 16(5), 757–774.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Garimella, K., Gionis, A., Morales, F., & Mathiudakis, M. (2018). Political discourse on Social Media: Eco chambers, gatekeepers and the price of bipartisanship. International World Wide Web Conference Committees.Google Scholar
  14. Garrett, K. R. (2009). Echo chambers online? Political motivated selective exposure among Internet news users. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14(x), 265–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Loader, B. D., & Mercea, D. (2011). Networking democracy? Information, Communication & Society, 14(6), 757–769.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mbete, S. (2016). Economic Freedom Fighters’ debut in the municipal elections. Journal of Public Administration, 51(3), 596–614.Google Scholar
  17. Munusamy, R. (2016, January 18). #ZumaMustFall: A misguided campaign, Zuma’s helping hand. Daily Maverick (Newspaper). Retrieved September 7, 2018, from
  18. Nixon, R. (1991). Mandela, messianism, and the media. Transition, 51(1), 42–55. Retrieved from Scholar
  19. Papacharissi, Z. (2010). A private sphere: Democracy in a digital age. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  20. Paulussen, S., & Harder, R. A. (2014). Social media references in newspapers. Journalism Practice, 8(5), 542–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Sunstein, C. R. (2001). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Communication ScienceUniversity of South AfricaPretoriaSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations