Quantifying Political Discussion from the Universe of Facebook Status Updates

24 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2013  

Jaime E. Settle

College of William and Mary

Christopher J. Fariss

Pennsylvania State University

Robert M. Bond

Ohio State University (OSU)

Jason J. Jones

State University of New York (SUNY), Stony Brook; University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

James H. Fowler

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences; UC San Diego School of Medicine

Lorenzo Coviello

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Adam D.I. Kramer

Facebook, Inc.

Cameron Marlow

Facebook, Inc.

Date Written: August 8, 2013

Abstract

The Internet has fundamentally changed the way we conceptualize public opinion, even beyond the way it has altered the traditional measurement of public attitudes and behaviors using random sampling of the broader population. The data analyzed in this paper offer one of the first comprehensive evaluations of mass political discourse generated via messages posted publicly on Facebook (called “status updates”), and allow us to quantify political discussion on Facebook without relying on self-reported behavior, or data from a limited topical context or sample. We find that while less than 1% of the users who post status updates on Facebook on a given day post a political status update, discussion is remarkably responsive to real-world political events. We suggest that instead of thinking of social media data simply as a measurement tool, we re-conceptualize it as both a way to monitor public discourse and also as a driver of public opinion.

Keywords: Facebook, political discussion, health care reform, 2008 election

Suggested Citation

Settle, Jaime E. and Fariss, Christopher J. and Bond, Robert M. and Jones, Jason J. and Fowler, James H. and Coviello, Lorenzo and Kramer, Adam D.I. and Marlow, Cameron, Quantifying Political Discussion from the Universe of Facebook Status Updates (August 8, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2307685 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2307685

Jaime E. Settle (Contact Author)

College of William and Mary ( email )

Williamsburg, VA 23185
United States

Christopher J. Fariss

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park
State College, PA 16802
United States

Robert M. Bond

Ohio State University (OSU) ( email )

Blankenship Hall-2010
901 Woody Hayes Drive
Columbus, OH OH 43210
United States

Jason Jeffrey Jones

State University of New York (SUNY), Stony Brook ( email )

Stony Brook, NY 11794
United States

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

HOME PAGE: http://psy2.ucsd.edu/~jasonjones/

James H. Fowler

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

UC San Diego School of Medicine ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
MC 0507
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

Lorenzo Coviello

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

Adam D.I. Kramer

Facebook, Inc. ( email )

1601 S. California Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94304
United States

Cameron Marlow

Facebook, Inc. ( email )

1601 S. California Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94304
United States

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