The “Social Side” of Public Policy: Monitoring Online Public Opinion and Its Mobilization During the Policy Cycle

Andrea Ceron and Fedra Negri in Policy & Internet: “This article addresses the potential role played by social media analysis in promoting interaction between politicians, bureaucrats, and citizens. We show that in a “Big Data” world, the comments posted online by social media users can profitably be used to extract meaningful information, which can support the action of policymakers along the policy cycle. We analyze Twitter data through the technique of Supervised Aggregated Sentiment Analysis. We develop two case studies related to the “jobs act” labor market reform and the “#labuonascuola” school reform, both formulated and implemented by the Italian Renzi cabinet in 2014–15. Our results demonstrate that social media data can help policymakers to rate the available policy alternatives according to citizens’ preferences during the formulation phase of a public policy; can help them to monitor citizens’ opinions during the implementation phase; and capture stakeholders’ mobilization and de-mobilization processes. We argue that, although social media analysis cannot replace other research methods, it provides a fast and cheap stream of information that can supplement traditional analyses, enhancing responsiveness and institutional learning….(More)”