Ideological scaling of social media users: a dynamic lexicon approach Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Words matter in politics. The rhetoric that political elites employ structures civic discourse. The emergence of social media platforms as a medium of politics has enabled ordinary citizens to express their ideological inclinations by adopting the lexicon of political elites. This avails to researchers a rich new source of data in the study of political ideology. However, existing ideological text-scaling methods fail to produce meaningful inferences when applied to the short, informal style of textual content that is characteristic of social media platforms such as Twitter. This paper introduces the first viable approach to the estimation of individual-level ideological positions derived from social media content. This method allows us to position social media users—be they political elites, parties, or citizens—along a shared ideological dimension. We validate the proposed method by demonstrating correlation with existing measures of ideology across various political contexts and multiple languages. We further demonstrate the ability of ideological estimates to capture derivative signal by predicting out-of-sample, individual-level voting intentions. We posit that social media data can, when properly modeled, better capture derivative signal than discrete scales used in more traditional survey instruments.

publication date

  • 2018