Measuring The Percentage Of Democratic Political Discourse On Twitter In Middle Eastern Countries Research Proposal Samples
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A fundamental component of democracy is freedom of political discourse. The Arab Spring, a series of revolutionary protests, demonstrations, and civil wars that started in 2010 showed the power of social media platforms and they way they can be used to generate and foment political dialogue and action (Huang). A new generation used social media as a tool to help overthrow repressive and authoritative rulers. Today, social media is more popular than ever in the Arab region. There are almost six million Twitter users spread across the Arab world, with Saudi Arabia comprising almost half of all Twitter users (“Twitter in the Arab Region”). Arabs use twitter (tweet) 18,000,000 times a day, and analyzing the themes of the messages could prove useful in understanding the development of democratic thought, ideals and political action in specific Middle Eastern countries. As many of these countries transition to more democratic forms of government, interesting questions have emerged about the role of social media in promoting democratic thought and actions. What percentage of the tweets are political? Do some countries discourage or limit political discourse on Twitter? Do more democratic societies tweet more political messages? Or does political repression actually encourage political discourse? How does this compare to a traditionally democratic country, such as the U.S.? Are there more or less political tweets from U.S. Twitter users?
The hypothesis of this research is that countries that are transitioning to a more democratic form of government will have more political themed tweets than the United States, which has an established democratic government.
This is both a subjective qualitative and quantitative study, that will examine 100 tweets from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and Libya; and the U.S, and identify the percentage of tweets that have a political theme or message. This information will be analyzed according to themes of tweets, and compared to general level of democracy.
A countries level of democracy will be measure using the The Economist Economic Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Democracy Index, which measures the relative level of democracy in 167 countries, and is based on sixty indicators divided into five categories which measure pluralism, civil liberties, and political culture. Each country has a numeric score and a ranking. For example, Saudi Arabia produces almost half of the tweets in the Arab world, but is ranked very low on the Democracy Index, at 161 out of 167. It will be informative to see what percentage of Saudi tweets have a political message. Kuwait and Libya are slightly higher on the index, at 119 and 120 respectively.
The United States is ranked 19th, and will provide useful information on the level of discourse in a historically democratic society.
The themes that emerge from reading the tweets can provide useful information on democratic political discourse in the Middle East. There are some limitations to the study, including the difficulty of interpreting and extrapolating data in countries without free speech legislation. However, a low level of political discourse on Twitter may indicate a more authoritative regime and less democratic political landscape. Analyzing the themes of the tweets will also offer insights into the political ideology of the population and the issues that drive political discourse. For example, the right for women to drive in Saudi Arabia or the debated presidential election in Egypt. Along with the data, which will indicate the propensity of the twitter using population to engage in political discourse, the themes that are popular in each country can contribute to our knowledge about their process of democratization.
"Twitter in the Arab Region." Twitter in the Arab Region. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. http://www.arabsocialmediareport.com/Twitter/LineChart.aspx
Hardy, Roger. "Democracy or Disorder? The Four Lessons of the Arab Spring." BBC News. N.p., 11 July 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Huang, Carol. "Facebook and Twitter key to Arab Spring uprisings: report." The National. Vol. 6. 2011.
"The Democracy Index 2010: Democracy in Retreat." Democracy Index 2010. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. http://www.eiu.com/public/topical_report.aspx?campaignid=demo2010
Sample Data Chart
Country / Democratic Index / # of Users / # of Tweets per Day / % of Political Tweets
US 19 X X Y%
Saudi Arabia 161
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