Using Social Media Data to Reveal Patterns of Policy Engagement in State Legislatures

State governments are tasked with making important policy decisions in the United States. How do state legislators use their public communications—particularly social media—to engage with policy debates? Due to previous data limitations, we lack systematic information about whether and how state legislators publicly discuss policy and how this behavior varies across contexts. Using Twitter data and state-of-the-art topic modeling techniques, we introduce a method to study state legislator policy priorities and apply the method to 15 US states in 2018. We show that we are able to accurately capture the policy issues discussed by state legislators with substantially more accuracy than existing methods. We then present initial findings that validate the method and speak to debates in the literature. The paper concludes by discussing promising avenues for future state politics research using this new approach.

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License CC BY
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 110 - American