Mass Politics and Social Media

What voters talk about during an election campaign

Among other things, the social scientists are interested in how political opinions are formed (that is, how voters decide which party to vote for) and here, too, big data from social media and other sources offers new opportunities.

In the Mass Politics and Social Media project, the researchers have “harvested” political discussions from a total of 2.5 million Danish Facebook accounts in the period leading up to the parliamentary election of June 2015 and analysed their tone and content. Based on this data, researchers are now examining the impact of the traditional party leader debates in the election campaign, i.e. whether the TV broadcasts change the focus of the political debate and influence the polls in the weeks leading up to the election.

This allows the researchers to show relatively accurately how voters react to the party leader debates, and this is crucial since much of the political debate takes place on social media, where people can express themselves how they want to without being edited by journalists and editors as in traditional media. By taking a systematic approach – in this case using Facebook data – researchers can answer the question that everyone with an interest in the outcome of the election asks themselves during an election campaign: “What are people talking about at lunch in their workplaces?”

The project is led by Professor of Economics David Dreyer Lassen and Robert Klemmensen of the University of Southern Denmark