Who’s Tweeting About the President? What Big Survey Data Can Tell Us About Digital Traces

By | Research

Who’s Tweeting About the President? What Big Survey Data Can Tell Us About Digital Traces

Published in
January 21, 2019 Social Science Computer Review


Josh Pasek, Colleen A. McClain, Frank Newport, Stephanie Marken

Researchers hoping to make inferences about social phenomena using social media data need to answer two critical questions: What is it that a given social media metric tells us? And who does it tell us about? Drawing from prior work on these questions, we examine whether Twitter sentiment about Barack Obama tells us about Americans’ attitudes toward the president, the attitudes of particular subsets of individuals, or something else entirely. Specifically, using large-scale survey data, this study assesses how patterns of approval among population subgroups compare to tweets about the president. The findings paint a complex picture of the utility of digital traces. Although attention to subgroups improves the extent to which survey and Twitter data can yield similar conclusions, the results also indicate that sentiment surrounding tweets about the president is no proxy for presidential approval. Instead, after adjusting for demographics, these two metrics tell similar macroscale, long-term stories about presidential approval but very different stories at a more granular level and over shorter time periods.

H.V. Jagadish appointed director of MIDAS

By | General Interest, Happenings, News

H.V. Jagadish has been appointed director of the Michigan Institute for Data Science (MIDAS), effective February 15, 2019.

Jagadish, the Bernard A. Galler Collegiate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan, was one of the initiators of an earlier concept of a data science initiative on campus. With support from all academic units and the Institute for Social Research, the Office of the Provost and Office of the Vice President for Research, MIDAS was established in 2015 as part of the university-wide Data Science Initiative to promote interdisciplinary collaboration in data science and education.

“I have a longstanding passion for data science, and I understand its importance in addressing a variety of important societal issues,” Jagadish said. “As the focal point for data science research at Michigan, I am thrilled to help lead MIDAS into its next stage and further expand our data science efforts across disciplines.”

Jagadish replaces MIDAS co-directors Brian Athey and Alfred Hero, who completed their leadership appointments in December 2018.

“Professor Jagadish is a leader in the field of data science, and over the past two decades, he has exhibited national and international leadership in this area,” said S. Jack Hu, U-M vice president for research. “His leadership will help continue the advancement of data science methodologies and the application of data science in research in all disciplines.”

MIDAS has built a cohort of 26 active core faculty members and more than 200 affiliated faculty members who span all three U-M campuses. Institute funding has catalyzed several multidisciplinary research projects in health, transportation, learning analytics, social sciences and the arts, many of which have generated significant external funding. MIDAS also plays a key role in establishing new educational opportunities, such as the graduate certificate in data science, and provides additional support for student groups, including one team that used data science to help address the Flint water crisis.

As director, Jagadish aims to expand the institute’s research focus and strengthen its partnerships with industry.

“The number of academic fields taking advantage of data science techniques and tools has been growing dramatically,” Jagadish said. “Over the next several years, MIDAS will continue to leverage the university’s strengths in data science methodologies to advance research in a wide array of fields, including the humanities and social sciences.”

Jagadish joined U-M in 1999. He previously led the Database Research Department at AT&T Labs.

His research, which focuses on information management, has resulted in more than 200 journal articles and 37 patents. Jagadish is a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and he served nine years on the Computing Research Association board.