Polarity of News Sources among Indian Politicians

Dibyendu Mishra and Joyojeet Pal

(suggested citation: Mishra, D. and Pal, J. (2020) Polarity of News Sources among Indian Politicians. https://joyojeet.people.si.umich.edu/polarity-of-indian-news-sources-among-politicians/ )

We plotted the major Indian news sources and which politicians tweeted stories by them between Jan 2019 and Feb 2020. This is the first in a series of reports we will release over coming weeks. The sources were mapped on a single spectrum between pro- and anti-BJP to flatten the analysis to the establishment’s preference for certain news sources. While the real political spectrum is more complex than this, we use this as a preliminary point of analysis. The analysis thus is not one of the “leaning” of a certain news source, but rather of how much individual politicians from certain parties find agreement with stories from the respective sources.


On this graph, we have plotted major news sources based on how much their news stories get retweeted by party. We took the top 1000 highly followed BJP politicians and top 1000 non-BJP politicians and pulled all their tweets(~5.1 M) since Jan 2019. We then record retweeting of news sources from the Twitter handles of 212 news sources. We find about 64,000 instances of such retweets. Of these we select 47 twitter handles who were retweeted 51,000 times by these politicians, the overwhelming majority of represented engagements by politicians. The logic for plotting retweets, as opposed to likes, replies, mentions or retweets with mentions (quotes) is that a straight retweet is the closest approximation of one account wanting to propagate the words of another.

The x-axis is the polarity – thus a news source at the extreme right of the graph (score +1) was only ever tweeted by BJP politicians, whereas a news source at the extreme left (score -1) of the graph has only ever been tweeted out by non-BJP politicians. A news source that appears around the middle, on ‘0’ on the x-axis was equally used by the BJP and non-BJP sources. The y-axis is a measure of the frequency of use of the news source – thus NewYorker is not used very often, whereas ANI at the top of the graph with a high score on the y-axis is a frequently used source.


Our results show that NDTV India, The Telegraph, and The Wire are among the most preferred sources among non-BJP politicians, while Zee News Hindi, TimesNow, and Republic are the most preferred among BJP politicians. A few patterns emerge from this.

First, foreign news sources are significantly clustered to the left of the figure, meaning their news stories are generally preferred by non-BJP politicians.

Second, that media houses own a spread of narratives. The Times Group, for instance, owns properties across the spectrum, from those preferred by non-BJP sources, whereas TimesNow, also owned by the same group is among the most retweeted news sources on the BJP side. Similarly, the CNN parent brand appears on the left of the graph, more heavily used by non-BJP, while News18 is more BJP politican preferred, and Bloomberg also has affiliates on both sides.

Finally we see while there is a good spread of newspapers on all sides, Magazines are generally on the left of the graph, with the exception of Swarajya, which is preferred by BJP politicians.

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