Academic Articles

Social media: How Twitter affects the discussion of UBI


A new research study carried out by Jeff Hemsley, Martha Garcia‐Murillo and Ian P. MacInnes investigates how social media affects the discussion and spread of policy and ideas with a case study focus on the topic of Universal Basic Income (UBI).

The researchers argue that social media provides an important space for analysis, with Twitter, in particular, being dominated by policy advocates and policy issues. The study thus uses UBI discussion as a case study to determine how policy issues disseminate on social media, rather than focusing on the details of UBI.

The researchers used keyword collection on Twitter’s application programming interfaces (API) to identify tweets containing any of 23 specific terms related to UBI, dating from July 25th to December 12th of 2016. Within the captured time frame, Twitter users posted a total of 157,000 tweets related to UBI, at an average of 1,127 messages per day. The authors conclude that because the data collection of tweets related to UBI did not break the Twitter rate limit API, it can be inferred that discussion of the topic at the given period was not significantly numerous.

The researchers then reviewed these tweets using content analysis methods to code UBI-related tweets as informative or emotionally resonant, and to examine whether this affected users’ perceptions of UBI. They conclude that, in the UBI discussion space, “interesting” tweets are more likely to be shared, but tweets that have a more emotionally resonant message are far more likely to draw a greater number of new users into the online discussion about UBI. The researchers argue that this because tweets coded as “interesting” are often seen and posted by users already within a “UBI positive echo chamber,” whereas “emotionally resonant” tweets trigger emotional responses which can “activate existing users and can bring users into the discussion space who may participate again in the future.”

For policy issues like UBI to produce further discussion and influence greater numbers of users on social media, the academics conclude that “policy advocates likely need both emotional messages that resonate with people as well as informative messages that are resources for the community.”

For more information:

Jeff Hemsley, Martha Garcia‐Murillo and Ian P. MacInnes, “Tweets That Resonate: Information Flows and the Growth of Twitter’s Universal Basic Income Discussion Space,” Policy & Internet, 15 July 2018.

Picture Credit: Financial services and Social media

About Harry Curzon

Harry Curzon has written 3 articles.

Just finished my Politcs masters, i have a passion for politics, environment, football, and most importantly Basic income. Also a Proud Mancunian.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

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