Attitudes and potential effects of political discontent – Government and contentious politics in Twitter

From July 2013 to July 2014
Funding Institution: Agència de Gestió d’Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca (AGAUR)

Online social networking platforms have transformed collective action in multiple ways and have become a mean for expressing public frustration towards the functioning of democracy. However, we know very little on the possible outcomes of citizen engagement through these forms of expression. We have evidence that political use of social networks influences the more traditional forms of collective action in terms of political expression, and possibly on the attitudinal components of individual involvement in politics through open discussion of matters of public interest.

This project questions public responses to contentious politics in order to shed some light on attitudes toward the legitimacy of actors, grievances and repertoires. It aims at identifying to what extent and under what conditions do interactions in Twitter between citizens, social organizations, political elites and the news media deal with contentious politics and the role these interactions play in profiling public attitudes toward protest politics.

In this way, the study will focus on two areas of special interest in contentious politics: the potential to capture public attention and interact with electoral politics and elites involved in public policy processes; and the possible influence that contentious politics may have on the perceptions and attitudes of their audiences on Twitter regarding the contents of discontent and the forms of non-electoral ways of expressing disagreement.

Research questions

A guiding question deals with issue attitudes and personal stances, and how are these perceptions related to attitudes towards the actors, their repertoires (occupation, escrache, strikes, demonstrations, petitions, rallies, sit-ins, occupation, disobedience, hacking, donation, boycotts, etc.) and to the degree of “contentiousness” of their claims and expressions.
This project focuses on three main objectives:

  1. Assess how political elites are connected with those involved in contentious politics by analyzing the interactions between these actors in the social network Twitter.
  1. Establish the degree of influence that organizations and actors who oppose government policy may have on the public discourse of political parties and representatives on Twitter.
  1. Study attitudes toward dissent, protest and unconventional forms of political participation that are expressed through the Twitter social network interactions during political events of massive interest