Original research article| Volume 90, ISSUE 5, P502-507, November 2014

Finding the Twitter users who stood with Wendy



      I examine Twitter discussion regarding the Texas omnibus abortion restriction bill before, during and after Wendy Davis’ filibuster in summer 2013. This critical moment precipitated wide public discussion of abortion. Digital records allow me to characterize the spatial distribution of participants in Texas and the United States and estimate the proportion of participants who were Texans.

      Study design

      Building a dataset based on all hashtags associated with the bill between June 19th and July 14th, 2013, I use GPS locations and text descriptions of locations to classify users by county of residence. Mapping tweets from accounts within the continental United States by day, I describe the residential composition of the conversation in total and over time. Using indirect estimation, I compute an estimate of the number of Texans who participated.


      About 1.66 million tweets were sent using hashtags associated with the bill from 399,081 user accounts. I estimate counties of residence for 160,954 participants (40.3%). An estimated 115,500 participants (29%) were Texans, and Texans sent an estimated 48.8% of all tweets. Tweets were sent from users estimated to live in every region of Texas, including 189 of Texas’ 254 counties. Texans tweeted more than non-Texans on every day except the filibuster and the day after.


      The analysis measures real-life responses to proposed abortion restrictions from people across Texas and the United States. It demonstrates that Twitter users from across Texas counties opposed HB2 by describing the geographical range of US and Texan abortion rights supporters on Twitter.


      The Twitter discussion surrounding Wendy Davis’ filibuster revealed a geographically diverse population of individuals who strongly oppose abortion restrictions. Texans from across the state were among those who actively voiced opposition. Identifying rights supporters through online behavior may present a new way of classifying individuals’ orientations regarding abortion rights.


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