Nexalogy Teams up with York U and JMI, India, to support India election research project

by Zachary Devereaux

India Election 2014 Study by Nexalogy, York University, and JMI India

Have you ever wondered how social media can be studied?

To get a good idea check out the paper below by York and JMI university professors that used the NexaMaster platform to collect and analyze over 40,000 Tweets about the most recent election in India, the world’s largest democracy.

Their paper is titled:

Report on Media Activism and Other Manias: How the English Mass Circulation Indian Press Framed the 2014 Election Campaign  

Daniel Drache, York University Fred Fletcher, York University Biswajit Das, JMI, Taberez A. Neyazi, JMI

In it, they argue that “The growing use of the Internet and mobile telephones has dramatically altered the dynamics of political communication and has helped political candidates appeal to voters directly and over the heads of the elites.”

They carried out an analysis of traditional media  but also worked with Nexalogy to evaluate the emergent field of social media as a realm for political communication:

“As a supplement to the content analysis of the press, a sample of more than 40,000 tweets was downloaded into a file for analysis.  The sample was drawn from the period May 5 to May 17, with the intention of capturing not only the final days of the campaign, when the strategies and appeals had become routinized, but also the online speculation about reasons for the outcome.  Because the key research questions here involve the impact of the AAP on the campaign, the sample includes only those tweets in which the AAP or Kejriwal are mentioned.  In order keep the detailed coding manageable, only tweets in English were included – to facilitate comparison with the English-language press – and every second tweet was coded, a total of 21,151.  In the discussion that follows, some descriptive data are drawn from the entire sample, while a more detailed analysis is based on the sub-sample.  Because the tweets were organized by publisher, the sub-sample reflects quite accurately the most frequent “tweeters.” “

As the authors argue, using a robust sampling strategy and the NexaMaster scoring manager which allows teams to qualitatively code Twitter data by publisher:

“We were able to develop a similar methodology for our study of Twitter usage during the weeks prior to the May 2014 election and for five days following the release of the official results. We collected 45,000 tweets in order to analyze what Indians said online about the election, particularly their perceptions of the main issues, their views of the leaders and their electoral preferences. Throughout the election, the mainstream Indian English language print media helped shape and manage the style, tone and substance of Tweets, particularly around Twitter content portraying Modi as the man most capable of leading India into the 21st century, but also in many other ways.”

And the findings stress the importance of Twitter as an emerging domain of political contestation in India:

“Perhaps the most significant development in the 2014 election was that social media, and in particular Twitter, emerged as an alternative channel of communication for hundreds of thousands of people. Social media users get the impression that they are participants in the campaign and in the making of history. The sense of ‘we-ness’ while often superficial and fleeting is important nonetheless. In the eyes of tweeters it helps corrects the impression that the public is indeed a phantom, something remote and distant under the control of the elites.”

NexaMaster helped this research team to identify the top influencers:

“The 140-character limit on Twitter makes it primarily a headline and referral service, alerting followers to news and events they might like to be aware of.  In other jurisdictions, studies have shown that the Twitter-sphere tends to be dominated by the most active publishers, who post a significant proportion of tweets and often set the agenda. (See, for example, Chu and Fletcher, 2014: 158-162). The “influencers” are those whose messages are retweeted, quoted or cited most often.  In this sample, not surprisingly, the top influencers were Arvind Kejriwal, with a score of 917, and the aamaadmiparty (527).  The third most mentioned influencer was narendramodi (291). Several of the others were celebrities (musicians, actors, poets) who identified themselves as AAP supporters.  Two of the top ten were news organizations – NDTV and ANI-News – and two others identified themselves as online commentators. As these observations indicate, the organized party units were the most influential, followed by a reasonably wide range of other participants.  In other jurisdictions, leading journalists are often among the top publishers and influencers (Chu and Fletcher, 2014: 158-161), but this does not seem to have been the case here. The ten most used hashtags tell a similar story.  The top two are related to AAP accounts and are intended to promote the party.  They constitute a full 57.3% of the top ten hashtags.”

“As Table 6 shows, the most mentioned campaign themes in the print sample and on Twitter were essentially the same in the sample period (May 1 to 17).  The major exceptions are the absence of references to platforms and policies on Twitter and the modest attention to corruption.

Table 6

Themes in newspaper and Twitter content 

(% of reports / tweets in which theme is mentioned)

Topic

Newspapers

% of items mentioning topic May 1-16

Rank

Twitter

% of tweets mentioning topic May 5-17

Rank

Leadership / character

95

1

49

2

Regional influence on election

58

2

34

3

Corruption / accountability

56

3

9

4

Polls / predictions

35

4

56

1

Platforms / manifestos

30

5

6

Dirty tricks in election

10

6

5

5

Number of items

95

21,149

Source: Drache-Fletcher 2014 Indian Election Data Set

This methodology led their team to novel findings:

“In general, the key elements of the AAP campaign were present in the tweets.  Direct positive references to the AAP were present in 6.2% of tweets, with the majority emphasizing fighting corruption as the reason for their support (4.9% of all tweets).  During this period, negative references to the AAP were more common than positive ones (11.2% of the tweets), primarily reflecting disappointment with the party’s standing in the polls or Kejriwal’s decision to abandon his Delhi assembly seat to contest the national election (5.4% of tweets).  Nevertheless, many tweets later in the period supported the view that the party had done well for a first campaign and would do better in future (7.9% of tweets posted on May 16 and 17). “

And in conclusion they found that social media is moving from the margins to the mainstream of political communication:

“The rise of social media such as Facebook and Twitter has complicated the complex relationship between media and diversity, challenging conventional understandings of the ‘gatekeeper’ and ‘watchdog’ functions of the news media. As such, satellite channels today rely heavily on social media accounts for their stories. At the same time, as seen in the case of Egypt and Tunisia, it is often their framing of these accounts that allow social media stories to have national or international credence. The public expression of dissent in the Middle East demonstrates the consequences of the devolution of power downwards, as allowed by the participatory technology of Web 2.0. In another example from Canada, in 2008, about 400,000 citizens signed online petition to protest the prorogation of the minority parliament by the Prime Minister. This event enables us to better understand how the web has helped social activism, not always, but increasingly and unpredictably, move from the margins to the mainstream of the political landscape.”

For a full copy of the paper contact Daniel Drache

drache [at] yorku [dot] ca

To know more about NexaMaster as a research solution, write to us at:

info [at] nexalogy [dot] com

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