What do State Institutions Say? Twitter as a Public Communication Tool During the Impeachment of Dilma Rousseff

The objective of this article is to analyze the content of public communications in situations of political crisis. We aim to establish whether and to what extent there was partisan instrumentalization of the digital social media channels administered by State institutions during the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. We analyzed all posts published between 2015 and 2016 on the official Twitter profiles of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, Federal Senate, Presidential Palace and Federal Supreme Court. We considered all posts with the words ‘impeachment’, ‘impedimento’, (‘impeachment’) ‘afastamento’, (‘impeachment’) and ‘golpe’ (‘coup’) (n=795). Our methodology comprised a combination of quantitative (descriptive statistics) and qualitative (content analysis) strategies. We found that the Federal Senate’s twitter profile most frequently posted the word ‘impeachment’, while the term ‘golpe’ was most frequently posted by the Presidential Palace profile. Over half of the publications fit into the category of ‘dissemination of news’. The Presidential Palace’s Twitter profile exhibited a distinct pattern of behavior, predominantly posting tweets associated with the ‘promotion of ideas and expression of positions’. Therefore, the Presidential Palace favored a communications strategy with a partisan bias. This research is relevant as it uses empirical data to discuss phenomena tied to studies on public and political communication.