Why A Social Media Analysis?

Why A Social Media Analysis?

A word about our quantitative research

We initially contemplated carrying out surveys trying to map citizens’ attitudes, both consenting and dissenting, around climate change. Surveys carried prior to the pandemic, and since, have tended to suggest that climate was increasingly high on people’s list of preoccupations, and the pandemic’s capacity to highlight both the excess strains placed on the planet (from health to habitats) and the limits of a model driven by growth, all the while allowing some of these systems to recover, has tended to make citizens even more receptive to climate change policy. All of this is being measured in a variety of ways, by a number of outfits (both advocacy as well as policy and political science based). Yet, at the same time we remain convinced that despite a positive wave of support for the EGD, a) as we have said, it might not be long-lasting under the strain of an economic crisis and b) it may well not be enough.  Climate policy is set to become a wedge issue, much in the way that migration and immigration were.

If the past few years have demonstrated anything, it is:

  • a) that reasonable and ethical demands and mainstream, majority attitudes are routinely over-ridden by the strident demands and intimidating stances of detractors. Governments can easily be overwhelmed by a loud minority, election campaigns can easily be manipulated and swayed to reflect a large minority (or to create one). The Gilets Jaunes are a case in point and so are recent protests in the US, where surveys on race suggest that a large majority of Americans think there is progress to be made on race relations, in a situation characterised by public authorities reacting swiftly and unequivocally to charge George Floyd’s killer. Even in these conditions, vocal and mobilised racist minorities have been able to poison peaceful protests and to further entrench dividing lines. The point is that it is easy to throw good will and positive attitudes off course. This is happening all the time, and threatening to happen in Europe around climate issues.
  • b) that while it is crucial to understand the deep drivers of people’s motivations, these drivers are highly changeable. There is a plasticity in people’s preferences and choices that suggest that concentrating on ‘tribes’, as though they were fixed, is not enough. We need to pay attention to the powerful surface storms and how these change people’s minds, but also how they are able to reach deep and trigger subconscious emotions that may not be lasting but that are very powerful. Some research privileges a combination of deep values and hard personality wiring; but those simply do not account for the huge volatility that is routinely displayed by most. People may be categorised in a tribe, but that doesn’t account for the many floating voters and detractors.
  • c) There is a limit to behaviour change. Not because behaviour cannot change, but because it is not linear, it is not steady and it is not enough to counter-balance surface storms. Finally, it seems to us that there is a contradiction in thinking that action is dictated by value-based as well as personality traits that lie deep below the consciousness of respondents, but that we can take the responses of the respondents at face value.

We feel that to complement the survey work, both existing and currently being carried out, it is important to measure the ‘eco-systems’ of emotions that tend to overtake politicians. These are the lost battles that, over time, get in the way of winning the war. And understanding them will give us a measure of what it will take to build a longer-term democratic consent that cannot be so easily undermined.

To address these concerns, Counterpoint has contracted a top and innovative media analysis firm to conduct an analysis of public exchanges in the eight case studies countries: France, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

Go back to the Main Project Page to find out more about the quantitative methodology and our partners.
If you’re interested in getting involved,  finding out more, or supporting us please get in touch.

Mapping dissent and securing consent for climate policy in a post-Covid-19 Europe - Social Media

From the project

Funded by
the Open Society European Policy Institute, a part of the Open Society Foundations