B19 - Politics and Social Media
Date: Jun 14 | Time: 01:45pm to 03:15pm | Location:
Policymaking to the Tempo? Timing, Policy Implementation & Protest Cycle during the Covid-19 Pandemic: Amir Abdul Reda (Université Mohammed VI Polytechnique)
Abstract: Protests against containment policies during crises like the Covid-19 pandemic have the potential to disrupt society beyond their immediate impact on policymaking and policy reversal. Recent findings show overwhelmingly that protests have an important and substantive impact on public opinion about the issue being contested, especially immediately after important societal events (Branton et al. 2015; Reny and Newman 2021; Wasow 2020; Mazumder 2018; Collingwood, Lajevardi, and Oskooii 2018; Wouters 2019; Curtis 2022; Sato and Haselswerdt 2022). Additionally, recent evidence goes to show that anti-containment policy protests find considerable support in many societies(Hunger, Hutter, and Kanol 2023), even though disruptive action has the potential to decrease support for protests in some cases(Ketchley and El-Rayyes 2021), and some find that some protests during Covid-19 did not help spread the virus(Neyman and Dalsey 2021). Using opinion surveys, some study support for protests against containment measures and show staggering rates of sympathy for protesters, and willingness to take part in contentious action despite containment policies(Hunger, Hutter, and Kanol 2023). Finally, others explore the many different types of Covid-19 related protests and discover variation based on country level features, with more developed, more liberal societies seeing a dominance of anti-restriction protests while others see a dominance of healthcare related protests(Hellmeier 2023). Such findings prompt the need for scholars and policymakers alike to question conventional approaches to pandemic fighting policies and do more to be prepared for such unlikely yet occurring eventualities. In this paper, we ask: in times of crisis, why do some containment policies face more civil unrest than others? What does this tell us about the ways in which policymakers should introduce restrictive yet common good policies during times of crisis? To answer these questions, we elaborate and test three theoretical mechanisms of civil unrest against restrictive policies during times of crisis: the fatigue mechanism, the protest cycle mechanism, and the communication mechanism. The first mechanism is based on onlookers’ psychological burnout from crisis-fighting measures. The basic idea of this mechanism is that populations are sensible to two variables—first, deviance from the pre-pandemic, baseline “normal” life; and second evolution of the crisis. We suggest that these two variables generate a “spread” in the day-to-day calculus of populations whereby they assess the fairness of government restrictions on their civil and public liberties to fight the crisis. The second mechanism is based on the general intuition that timing of policy implementations in relation to already ongoing protests matters for explaining and predicting the likelihood of future protests. Here, we elaborate an empirical test of the protest cycle mechanism by exploring the interaction of new restricting policies with protest intensity over time. In so doing, we suggest that new policies will not have the same effect on the intensification or decrease of protests depending on when they are implemented during the protest cycle. The third mechanism is based on European politicians’ public speeches about Covid-19 and the pandemic. To measure communication by said politicians, we use their official Facebook pages over the timeline of the pandemic and code a number of different patterns in the speech—such as misinformation about the pandemic, encouragement to comply with health policies, etc. The intuition behind this mechanism is that skeptical onlookers are more likely to protest new stringency adding policies if their opinions are validated by politicians in public (on Facebook) than not. References Branton, Regina, Valerie Martinez-Ebers, Tony E. Carey, and Tetsuya Matsubayashi. 2015. “Social Protest and Policy Attitudes: The Case of the 2006 Immigrant Rallies.” American Journal of Political Science 59 (2): 390–402. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12159. Collingwood, Loren, Nazita Lajevardi, and Kassra A. R. Oskooii. 2018. “A Change of Heart? Why Individual-Level Public Opinion Shifted Against Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban.’” Political Behavior 40 (4): 1035–72. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-017-9439-z. Curtis, Justin. 2022. “The Effect of the 2020 Racial Justice Protests on Attitudes and Preferences in Rural and Urban America.” Social Science Quarterly 103 (1): 90–107. https://doi.org/10.1111/ssqu.13105. Hellmeier, Sebastian. 2023. “From Masks to Mismanagement: A Global Assessment of the Rise and Fall of Pandemic-Related Protests.” Research & Politics 10 (3): 20531680231191833. https://doi.org/10.1177/20531680231191833. Hunger, Sophia, Swen Hutter, and Eylem Kanol. 2023. “The Mobilisation Potential of Anti-Containment Protests in Germany.” West European Politics 46 (4): 812–40. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2023.2166728. Ketchley, Neil, and Thoraya El-Rayyes. 2021. “Unpopular Protest: Mass Mobilization and Attitudes to Democracy in Post-Mubarak Egypt.” The Journal of Politics 83 (1): 291–305. https://doi.org/10.1086/709298. Mazumder, Soumyajit. 2018. “The Persistent Effect of U.S. Civil Rights Protests on Political Attitudes.” American Journal of Political Science 62 (4): 922–35. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12384. Neyman, Gregory, and William Dalsey. 2021. “Black Lives Matter Protests and COVID-19 Cases: Relationship in Two Databases.” Journal of Public Health 43 (2): 225–27. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdaa212. Reny, Tyler T., and Benjamin J. Newman. 2021. “The Opinion-Mobilizing Effect of Social Protest against Police Violence: Evidence from the 2020 George Floyd Protests.” American Political Science Review, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055421000460. Sato, Yuko, and Jake Haselswerdt. 2022. “Protest and State Policy Agendas: Marches and Gun Policy after Parkland.” Policy Studies Journal 50 (4): 877–95. https://doi.org/10.1111/psj.12463. Wasow, Omar. 2020. “Agenda Seeding: How 1960s Black Protests Moved Elites, Public Opinion and Voting.” American Political Science Review 114 (3): 638–59. https://doi.org/10.1017/S000305542000009X. Wouters, Ruud. 2019. “The Persuasive Power of Protest. How Protest Wins Public Support.” Social Forces 98 (1): 403–26. https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/soy110.
Appropriately Angry? Emotion Norms in Online Political Communication: Jessica Burch (Simon Fraser University), Eline de Rooij (Simon Fraser University)
Abstract: Previous political communication work suggests that anger expression drives social media engagement, with angry posts more likely to be rewarded with 'likes' or 'shares'. This common finding sits oddly with widespread social norms, which tend to discourage the expression of anger in everyday conversation. I examine whether previous findings on anger expression generalize to Reddit. In addition to being a more discussion-based platform, Reddit is also home to communities (known as subreddits) with different norms. I theorize that social media posts are rewarded or penalized on the basis of context-specific norms - and that anger expression will be deemed more appropriate in political, than (primarily) non-political, subreddits. I also explore potential differences between Canadian and American subreddits. I use corpus-informed, dictionary-based text analysis to capture the presence and intensity of anger expression in more than 2,000 posts. I then examine the extent to which anger expression is rewarded, and whether this varies by topic. Implications for emotion in politics and political engagement research are discussed.
Rooting for whom? Mainstream parties group appeal strategies on social media in a fragmented party system: Lucas Kins (Université libre de Bruxelles), Caroline Close (Université libre de Bruxelles)
Abstract: The decline of mainstream, historical political parties in Europe has been challenged in recent years, with many instances of resilience or “comeback” of such actors across the continent. Nevertheless, the proliferation and persistence of both right-wing and left-wing populists also points to a scenario of cohabitation (or even collaboration) in several countries (De Vries & Hobolt, 2020; Krause et al., 2023). In this context, it is now more than ever crucial for mainstream parties, which have suffered from their ideological convergence (or de-ideologization) and partisan dealignment, to differentiate from one another (Garzia et al., 2022; Grant & Tilley, 2023). Drawing on social identity theory, representation and political communication literatures, we unravel the strategies that mainstream parties adopt in their day-to-day online communication to craft their image relative to groups in society (1), partisan identities (2), individual (3) and institutional actors (4). We rely on a quantitative content analysis of one year of parties and party leaders communication in Belgium on social media (X), a fragmented multi-party parliamentary democracy, and analyze parties’ group appeals in order to assess whether parties achieve homogenous partisan identities, or to the contrary actively contribute to their further dissolution. We proceed to examine to what extent different parties feed into the horizontal and/or vertical polarization strategies of their populist challengers, or opt for an alternate communication style with regards to group appeals.
X as a Mobilization Tool: The 2022 Freedom Convoy: Jan Eckardt (University of Western Ontario), Mathieu Turgeon (University of Western Ontario), Deena Abdul--Fottouh (Dalhousie University), Farah Rana (University of Western Ontario)
Abstract: We seek to leverage X (Twitter) data collected to evaluate the extent to which X was used as a mobilization tool for the 2022 Freedom Convoy in Ottawa, Canada. Several tweets from a variety of hashtags were collected. We evaluate the content of the tweets through an unconventional approach, using the Large Language Model (LLM) GPT4. Our methodological contribution is extended by comparing results from a more parametric approach to a more unsupervised approach to LLM-based data analysis and comparing the validity of results. Methodologically, we aim to make a contribution by using a novel and streamlined approach to text analysis by using GPT4 and generating new insights as to how this method is best used. The results of this analysis should in turn add to our theoretical understanding of how X can be used as a mobilization tool for social movements and protests. In sum, our project should both have a methodological and theoretical contribution.