Our surveys of Twitter users

Since 2013, we have developed and perfected a method for surveying representative samples of Twitter users who engaged with particular conversations during a certain period of time. The method, first pioneered by Leticia Bode of Georgetown University and colleagues, consists of the following steps:

  • Crawling public content on Twitter for keywords relevant to our research interests (e.g. names of parties, party leaders, or candidates) in a certain period of time
  • Extrapolating the usernames who posted at least one relevant keyword
  • Drawing random samples of those users
  • Contacting these users on Twitter to ask them to take a survey
  • Recording Informed consent as part of the survey
  • Rendering the survey data entirely anonymous to preserve respondents’ privacy

Our surveys aim to understand how respondents use digital and social media in combination with traditional media to get and share information on politics as well as to engage with politics in a variety of ways that take place both online and in face-to-face contests.

So far, we have conducted surveys in Australia, Germany, Italy, and the United KingdomThe results of these surveys have already been presented in various published works:

If you have been contacted and invited to take part in one of our surveys, you can direct any queries to Cristian Vaccari via email or directly on Twitter. Please rest assured that we will not contact you more than once unless you allow us to further contact you, and that we will treat any data that you will provide according to the best ethical standards in the social science.

We are very grateful for your collaboration. This research could not happen without you!

Network Security project

The NPCU can announce a new £130,784 research grant award to Dr Ben O’Loughlin in collaboration with Linguamatics Ltd. The award, from the Technology Strategy Board (http://www.innovateuk.org/), will fund a 12-month pilot investigation of the use of blogs and twitter as a way of monitoring information infrastructures for early warnings of problems. Linguamatics are a text-mining company based in Cambridge, UK. Lawrence Ampofo, a PhD student in the department, will be a Research Assistant on the project.

Automatic analysis of formal channels (e.g. customer surveys and user feedback forms) using Natural Language Processing (NLP) has been successfully used by large organisations to identify issues reported with products and services. Informal online sources of information, such as blogs and twitter, give the potential for greater coverage of issues in near-real time. We will take NLP technology already proven in life science research and apply it to blogs and twitter for monitoring of digital services. Weak signals gathered from large numbers of users can suggest problems which do not show up as single point failures. We will also see if it is possible to catch cases where a rumour of a problem may exacerbate or even cause the problem itself.

2009-09-14: Web metrics workshop

The NPCU is holding a one-day workshop on 14 September 2009 to launch our focus on web metrics. The purpose of the workshop is to establish a research theme of Web metrics and political behaviour that will enable both academics and practitioners to debate and to shape an interdisciplinary research agenda that will:

1) Examine the increasing degree to which Web metrics can be used to measure and potentially predict such political behaviour from election voting to terrorism.
2) Bring together the combined expertise and opinions of academics, government and private sector actors to advance research in this field and inform debate.
3) Attract further support and interest from other people to form a community that is at the forefront at the nexus of Web metrics and political behaviour.

Speakers include:

Simon Collister: Head of Consumer Digital, Weber Shandwick

Rob Pearson: Digital Diplomacy, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Simon Bergman: Information Options

Carrie Baker and Dominic Campbell: FutureGov

Dr Maura Conway and Lisa McInery: Department of Law & Government, Dublin City University

Darren Lilleker: Department of Media and Communications, Bournemouth University

Claire Spencer: I to I Research

The workshop is invitation only. For further information please contact Lawrence Ampofo on L.P.Ampofo@rhul.ac.uk