New study by Ceren Budak and Duncan J. Watts in Sociological Science: “Do social movements actively shape the opinions and attitudes of participants by bringing together diverse groups that subsequently influence one another? Ethnographic studies of the 2013 Gezi uprising seem to answer “yes,” pointing to solidarity among groups that were traditionally indifferent, or even hostile, to one another. We argue that two mechanisms with differing implications may generate this observed outcome: “influence” (change in attitude caused by interacting with other participants); and “selection” (individuals who participated in the movement were generally more supportive of other groups beforehand).
We tease out the relative importance of these mechanisms by constructing a panel of over 30,000 Twitter users and analyzing their support for the main Turkish opposition parties before, during, and after the movement. We find that although individuals changed in significant ways, becoming in general more supportive of the other opposition parties, those who participated in the movement were also significantly more supportive of the other parties all along. These findings suggest that both mechanisms were important, but that selection dominated. In addition to our substantive findings, our paper also makes a methodological contribution that we believe could be useful to studies of social movements and mass opinion change more generally. In contrast with traditional panel studies, which must be designed and implemented prior to the event of interest, our method relies on ex post panel construction, and hence can be used to study unanticipated or otherwise inaccessible events. We conclude that despite the well known limitations of social media, their “always on” nature and their widespread availability offer an important source of public opinion data….(More)”