Digital Trace Data in the Study of Public Opinion : An Indicator of Attention Toward Politics Rather Than Political Support

Faculty/Professorship: Information Systems and Social Networks  
Faculty/Professorship: Governance of Complex and Innovative Technological Systems  
Author(s): Jungherr, Andreas  ; Schoen, Harald; Posegga, Oliver  ; Jürgens, Pascal
Title of the Journal: Social Science Computer Review
ISSN: 1552-8286
Publisher Information: Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Sage
Year of publication: 2016
Issue: Published online before print February 15, 2016
Pages: 21 ; Online-Ressource
Language(s): English
DOI: 10.1177/0894439316631043
In this article, we examine the relationship between metrics documenting politics-related Twitter activity with election results and trends in opinion polls. Various studies have proposed the possibility of inferring public opinion based on digital trace data collected on Twitter and even the possibility to predict election results based on aggregates of mentions of political actors. Yet, a systematic attempt at a validation of Twitter as an indicator for political support is lacking. In this article, building on social science methodology, we test the validity of the relationship between various Twitter-based metrics of public attention toward politics with election results and opinion polls. All indicators tested in this article suggest caution in the attempt to infer public opinion or predict election results based on Twitter messages. In all tested metrics, indicators based on Twitter mentions of political parties differed strongly from parties’ results in elections or opinion polls. This leads us to question the power of Twitter to infer levels of political support of political actors. Instead, Twitter appears to promise insights into temporal dynamics of public attention toward politics.
International Distribution: Ja
Type: Article
Year of publication: 29. November 2016