New data sources for social indicators: the case study of contacting politicians by Twitter

Published on
December 1, 2016

The article of Cristina Rosales Sánchez, Massimo Craglia & Arnold Bregt: New data sources for social indicators: the case study of contacting politicians by Twitter, has been published in the International Journal of Digital Earth.

Data availability is a persistent constraint in social policy analysis. Web 2.0 technologies could provide valuable new data sources, but first, their potentials and limitations need to be investigated. This paper reports on a method using Twitter data for deriving indications of active citizenship, taken as an example of social indicators. Active citizenship is a dimension of social capital, empowering communities and reducing possibilities of social exclusion. However, classical measurements of active citizenship are generally costly and time-consuming. This paper looks at one of such classic indicators, namely, responses to the survey question ‘contacts to politicians’. It compares official survey results in Spain with findings from an analysis of Twitter data. Each method presents its own strengths and weakness, thus best results may be achieved by the combination of both. Official surveys have the clear advantage of being statistically robust and representative of a total population. Instead, Twitter data offer more timely and less costly information, with higher spatial and temporal resolution. This paper presents our full methodological workflow for analysing and comparing these two data sources. The research results advance the debate on how social media data could be mined for policy analysis.

Keywords: Twitter, active citizenship, social media, indicators, data mining