Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson are the two most conservative candidates in the race for the GOP nomination in 2016, according to a model developed by The Washington Post
The Post analyzed the Twitter followers of all declared and rumored major primary candidates as of June 1 to map each candidate on the ideological scale.
The depiction also captures the ideological spread of the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress and a number of major news outlets for the purposes of comparison.
After Carson and Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are also close to the right-wing end of the spectrum, and further to the right than @rushlimbaugh, for example, the Post said.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former New York Gov. George Pataki, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are in the next cluster moving toward the center.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio comes close to the median for Republicans in Congress.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are closely positioned as the scale moves to the more moderate end of the party.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina are on the left end of the conservative side of the map.
Interestingly, Donald Trump's followers put him closest to the center of the scale of any candidate considered in the model.
On the Democratic side, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders are the most left wing. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley comes closest to the median of Democrats in Congress.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is closer to the center than President Barack Obama, the model shows.
The Post noted that Twitter networks are dynamic in that users can follow and "unfollow" political accounts at any time.
As networks change over time, it will be possible to observe how politicians' perceived ideological positions also evolve as the campaign takes shape.
In particular, the model will be able to measure whether candidates who receive the party nominations converge toward the center during the general election campaign as one hypothesis suggests.
"This application illustrates the vast potential of digital footprints as a useful source of information about social behavior and public opinion.
"While the act of following a political account on Twitter may appear irrelevant if considered individually, when millions of these decisions are aggregated the emerging patterns yield useful insights that can help voters make more informed political choices," the Post said.
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