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New Study Measures Political Polarisation in Europe Through the Parties’ Facebook Pages

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Scientists at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) have developed a new method to measure political polarisation in the European Union and the United Kingdom through the analysis of Facebook posts from political parties. This groundbreaking study, which has been published in the EPJ Data Science Journal, provides a low-cost and effective way to analyse the ideology and polarization of 27 EU member states and the UK.

The research project was aimed at examining how the use of social media, specifically Facebook, can provide insight into political polarisation in Europe and the UK. The researchers compiled a dataset of three years (2019–2021) from the Facebook pages of 234 political parties. They used the results of the 2019 European Parliament elections and 18 other electoral processes to create and validate their models.

Francisco Caravaca, one of the authors and a researcher in UC3M’s Telematics Engineering Department, said: “Using published posts, it’s possible to analyse on which side of the political spectrum each European country is positioned, for example, to find out if it is more left or right-leaning. It is also possible to see how politically divided or polarised each of the nations is.”

Ángel Cuevas, another researcher and senior Lecturer in UC3M’s Telematics Engineering Department, added: “Our methodology benefits from being a low-cost execution process that measures ideology and polarisation.

“Given that data from a social network is used, it is possible to observe changes in political trends in each of the countries analysed, and to see the evolution of these changes month by month.”

The researchers have made their findings freely available on a web portal called EU Political Barometer. This portal provides information on the political ideology and polarisation of each European country and allows for comparisons to be made by the country over time. The researchers hope that this platform will encourage further research into political polarization in Europe and the UK and will provide valuable insights for those interested in the political landscape of these countries.

The study was funded by the Community of Madrid through the “Encouraging Young PhD Students’ Research” programme, which is part of the Multiannual Agreement with UC3M (EU-MEASURE-CM-UC3M) and falls within the scope of the V PRICIT (Fifth Regional Plan for Scientific Research and Technological Innovation). The results of this research project have significant implications for the study of political polarization in Europe and the UK and provide valuable insights into the political trends in these countries. The researchers believe that this new method of analysing political polarisation through Facebook posts will have far-reaching implications and will greatly contribute to the understanding of political trends in Europe and the UK.

The EU Political Barometer is a unique and innovative platform that provides a wealth of information on the political ideology and polarization of each European country. This platform is particularly useful for political scientists, journalists, and members of the general public who are interested in understanding the political landscape of Europe and the UK. The researchers have made this platform freely accessible to encourage its use and to facilitate further research into the political polarisation in these countries.

In recent years, polarisation has become a major issue in Europe, fueled by factors such as the refugee crisis, the rise of nationalism and populism, and the increasing influence of social media in shaping public opinion.

The rise of nationalist and populist movements across Europe has challenged the traditional political landscape, leading to a shift towards more polarized and confrontational politics. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these trends, as people have become increasingly divided over measures such as lockdowns and vaccine mandates.

Polarization can have negative impacts on democracy, as it makes it more difficult for governments to reach a consensus and implement effective policies. It can also lead to increased levels of distrust and hatred between different groups, and to a breakdown in social cohesion.

Addressing polarization in Europe will require a concerted effort from political leaders, civil society organizations, and ordinary citizens to work towards greater understanding, dialogue, and cooperation.

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