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Social Media as an Alternative to Surveys of Opinions about the Economy

Resource Type
Dataset : other, survey data
  • Conrad, Frederick (University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research. Survey Research Center)
Publication Date
Free Keywords
survey research; social media; consumer sentiment; surveys and social media comparison
  • Abstract

    There is interest in using social media content to supplement or even substitute for survey data. O’Connor et al. (2010) report reasonably high correlations between the sentiment of tweets containing the word “jobs” and survey-based measures of consumer confidence in 2008-2009. Other researchers report a similar relationship through 2011 but after that time it is no longer observed, suggesting such tweets may not be as promising an alternative to survey responses as originally hoped. But, it’s possible that with the right analytic techniques, the sentiment of “jobs” tweets might still be an acceptable alternative. We explore this possibility by attempting to strengthen the original relationship and then extending the most successful approaches to more recent years. We classify “jobs” tweets into categories whose content is related to employment and categories whose content is not, to see if sentiment of the former correlates more highly with a survey-based measure of consumer sentiment. We use five sentiment-scoring tools, calculate daily sentiment three different ways, and use a measure of association less sensitive to outliers than correlation. None of these approaches improved the size of the relationship in the original or more recent data. We discuss the possibility that weighting and better understanding why users tweet might help recover the original relationship between the sentiment of tweets and survey responses. However, despite the earlier promise of tweets as an alternative to survey responses, we find no evidence that the original relationship was more than a chance occurrence.
  • Technical Information

    Response Rates: See
  • Technical Information

    Presence of Common Scales: The five survey questions used to calculate ICS are:

    1. “We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living there) are better off or worse off financially than you were a year ago?”

    2. “Now looking ahead--do you think that a year from now you (and your family living there) will be better off financially, or worse off, or just about the same as now?”

    3. “Now turning to business conditions in the country as a whole--do you think that during the next twelve months we'll have good times financially, or bad times, or what?”

    4. “Looking ahead, which would you say is more likely--that in the country as a whole we'll have continuous good times during the next five years or so, or that we will have periods of widespread unemployment or depression, or what?”

    5. “About the big things people buy for their homes--such as furniture, a refrigerator, stove, television, and things like that. Generally speaking, do you think now is a good or bad time for people to buy major household items?”
Temporal Coverage
  • 2008-01-01 / 2014-12-31
    Time Period: Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 2008--Wed Dec 31 00:00:00 EST 2014
  • 2008-01-01 / 2014-12-31
    Collection Date(s): Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 2008--Wed Dec 31 00:00:00 EST 2014
Geographic Coverage
  • United States
Sampled Universe
US adults and Twitter users.
Collection Mode
  • computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI)~~other~~web-based survey~~

    The data we have made available come from two sources: survey responses from the Surveys of Consumers ( from 2008-2011 and Twitter content (tweets) made available by the data provider Topsy.  The data were used to examine the relationship between the survey responses and social media posts. Ultimately the project was carried out to assess the potential for complementing or replacing survey data with social media data. This is a methodological question not a substantive question so we do not provide the kind of information that the Surveys of Consumers can provide to users wishing to analyze consumer sentiment.     


Update Metadata: 2019-05-04 | Issue Number: 1 | Registration Date: 2019-05-04

Conrad, Frederick (2019): Social Media as an Alternative to Surveys of Opinions about the Economy. Version: 1. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.