Kai Jäger
The potential of online sampling for studying political activists around the world and across time

Political Analysis, 2017: 25, issue 3, pp. 329-343
ISSN: 1047-1987 (print); 1476-4989 (online)

Parties and social movements play an important role in many theories of political science. Yet, the study of intraparty politics remains underdeveloped as random samples are difficult to conduct among political activists. This paper proposes a novel procedure to sample different parties over time and space by utilizing the advertising option of the social media webpage Facebook. As this method allows for quotas and the collection of large samples at relatively low cost, it becomes possible to improve the representativeness through poststratification and subsample robustness checks. Three examples illustrate these advantages of Facebook sampling: First, a Facebook sample approximated intraparty decisions and the outcome of a leadership contest of the Alternative for Germany. Second, a weighted Facebook sample achieved similar estimates as a representative local leader survey of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Third, by evaluating subgroups of key demographics for parties with unknown population parameters, two Facebook samples show that the color-coded conflict in Thailand was driven by different concepts of regime type, but not by a left–right divide on economic policy-making. Facebook sampling appears to be the best and cheapest method to conduct time-series cross-sectional studies for political activists.