Social Media Networks and the Relationships between Citizens and Politics

Research question/goal: 

The internet has radically transformed traditional political mobilisation and participation: participation costs have become extremely low; the need for co-presence evaporated; flexible, horizontal institutional structures replaced conventional organisations; and content can be easily produced and distributed by everybody. Social media content provides direct access to networks and content produced by citizens. It can not only reveal their attitudes towards policy problems, politicians, elections, riots, protests and unrest, but also highlight people’s preferences, willingness to participate and mobilise others. The present project exploits this new type of information aiming to deepen our understanding of citizens’ decision to participate politically. The main research questions are (a) how do social media (re)shape the relationships between citizens and politics (communication), and (b) how do these media affect the willingness to become politically active (mobilisation). The project combines new methodologies and techniques for handling and analysing large-scale social media data in combination with survey data on political behaviour.

Current stage: 

Data collection and analysis were completed. Throughout 2014 the project directors have been mainly preoccupied with the write-up and contribution of the project’s findings to various international academic outlets and conferences. Papers have been presented to various international conferences and further manuscripts are being prepared for publication.

Fact sheet

University of Mannheim, MZES
2011 to 2015
Data Sources: 
Content analyses; internet surveys
Geographic Space: 
Europa and US