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Published September 1, 2020 | Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Policy Change and Public Opinion: Measuring Shifting Political Sentiment With Social Media Data


This article uses Twitter data and machine-learning methods to analyze the causal impact of the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage at the federal level in the United States on political sentiment and discourse toward gay rights. In relying on social media text data, this project constructs a large data set of expressed political opinions in the short time frame before and after the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. Due to the variation in state laws regarding the legality of same-sex marriage prior to the Supreme Court's decision, I use a difference-in-difference estimator to show that, in those states where the Court's ruling produced a policy change, there was relatively more negative movement in public opinion toward same-sex marriage and gay rights issues as compared with other states. This confirms previous studies that show Supreme Court decisions polarize public opinion in the short term, extends previous results by demonstrating opinion becomes relatively more negative in states where policy is overturned, and demonstrates how to use social media data to engage in causal analyses.

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© 2020 by SAGE Publications. Article first published online: June 28, 2020; Issue published: September 1, 2020.

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August 19, 2023
August 19, 2023