Using Social Media Data to Reveal Patterns of Policy Engagement in State Legislatures

38 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2020 Last revised: 24 Feb 2021

See all articles by Andreu Casas

Andreu Casas

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Department of Communication Science

Julia Payson

New York University

Jonathan Nagler

NYU - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Richard Bonneau

New York University (NYU) - Center for Genomics and Systems Biology

Joshua A. Tucker

New York University (NYU)

Date Written: September 24, 2020

Abstract

State governments are the focus of important policy decisions in the United States. How do state legislators use their public communications ---particularly social media---to engage with policy debates? Due to previous data limitations, we lack systematic information about whether and how state legislators publicly discuss policy and how this behavior varies across contexts. Using Twitter data and state of the art topic modeling techniques, we introduce a method to study state legislator policy priorities and apply the method to fifteen U.S. states in 2018. We show that we are able to capture the policy issues discussed by state legislators with substantially more accuracy than existing methods. We then present initial findings that validate the method and speak to debates in the literature. For example, state legislators in competitive districts are more likely to discuss policy than those in less competitive districts, and legislators from more professional legislatures discuss policy at similar rates to those in less professional legislatures. We conclude by discussing promising avenues for future state politics research using this new approach.

Keywords: state politics, state legislators, social media, text as data

Suggested Citation

Casas, Andreu and Payson, Julia and Nagler, Jonathan and Bonneau, Richard and Tucker, Joshua Aaron, Using Social Media Data to Reveal Patterns of Policy Engagement in State Legislatures (September 24, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3698990 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3698990

Andreu Casas (Contact Author)

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Department of Communication Science ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, 1081HV
Netherlands

Julia Payson

New York University ( email )

New York, NY
United States

Jonathan Nagler

NYU - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

Dept of Politics - 2nd floor
19 W. 4th Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

Richard Bonneau

New York University (NYU) - Center for Genomics and Systems Biology ( email )

New York, NY
United States

Joshua Aaron Tucker

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

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