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.
Die Wahlkampf-Kampagne Barack Obamas von 2008 machte Twitter auch in Deutschland bekannt. Aber erst eine Kampagne gegen vermeintliche Internetzensur brachte die Veränderungen durch den Dienst auch hierzulande zum Vorschein: Politik wird zugänglicher und die Kommunikation schneller. Kann die Politik dem folgen?
Purpose – The steady increase of data on human behavior collected online holds significant research potential for social scientists. The purpose of this paper is to add a systematic discussion of different online services, their data generating processes, the offline phenomena connected to these data, and by demonstrating, in a proof of concept, a new approach for the detection of extraordinary offline phenomena by the analysis of online data.
Design/methodology/approach – To detect traces of extraordinary offline phenomena in online data, the paper determines the normal state of the respective communication environment by measuring the regular dynamics of specific variables in data documenting user behavior online. In its proof of concept, the paper does so by concentrating on the diversity of hashtags used on Twitter during a given time span. The paper then uses the seasonal trend decomposition procedure based on loess (STL) to determine large deviations between the state of the system as forecasted by the model and the empirical data. The paper takes these deviations as indicators for extraordinary events, which led users to deviate from their regular usage patterns.
Findings – The paper shows in the proof of concept that this method is able to detect deviations in the data and that these deviations are clearly linked to changes in user behavior triggered by offline events.
Originality/value – The paper adds to the literature on the link between online data and offline phenomena. The paper proposes a new theoretical approach to the empirical analysis of online data as indicators of offline phenomena. The paper will be of interest to social scientists and computer scientists working in the field.
The German election year 2009 saw the first attempts by political parties to include Web 2.0 services in their online campaigns. The 2009 election therefore offers the opportunity to examine how political parties outside the USA – where online campaigning has become commonplace – choose to use online tools in their campaigns. This paper examines the online campaign of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) with a special focus on the campaign's use of Web 2.0 services. The different elements of the campaign will be discussed with regard to three basic functions of online campaigning provided by the relevant literature: 1) presence in the online information space; 2) support of the infrastructure of politics; 3) creation of symbols for political support and participation. This paper shows that these functions were all present in the CDU's use of online tools in the campaign of 2009
Mit der Nutzung von Social Media gehorchen öffentliche Verwaltungen
dem Zeitgeist. Außerdem bieten sich Behörden durch den Einsatz sozialer
Netzwerke viele neue Möglichkeiten. Die Angebote fordern jedoch Zeit,
Lernbereitschaft und eventuell Anpassungen der Struktur der Kommunikationsarbeit.
Increasingly, political actors have to act in online communication environments. There they meet overlapping networked publics with different levels of participatory cultures and varying expectations of participation in the (re)making and co-production of political content. This challenges political actors used to a top-down approach to communication. Meanwhile, online users are increasingly politically involved as legislatures all over the world become more active in regulating communication environments online. These new political actors often share participatory practices and have high levels of new media skills. Now they are challenged to adapt these bottom-up participatory cultures to the traditional political environment. This paper examines these adaption processes by examining three examples from the campaign for the German federal election of 2009. These examples include the attempt of Germany's conservative party (CDU) to encourage their supporters to adapt participatory practices, the German Social Democrats' (SPD) top-down production and distribution of online content that mimicked the look and feel of user-generated content, and the bottom-up emergence of political flash mobs.