Twitter and Policy Outcomes- LAC

If political leaders are using social media to interact with constituents, their policies may reflect those interactions.  To begin to take a closer look, I looked at Latin America, comparing @Twiplomacy and @WorldBankData data.  I reviewed only active, verified accounts created 2015 or before, and national-level metrics.  Countries are ranked by followers, tweets per day, mutual peer connections, and interaction rate.  The poverty rate (2005 PPP, under $4) and inequality (Gini coefficient) are the “policy” indicators.

The countries with the largest fall in poverty rate between their first and last year of data were Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia.

An Ecuadorian account is on every list: the ministry of foreign affairs is 5th in mutual peer connections; the presidential account is the 7th most followed among Latin American leaders; Rafael Correa’s is the 5th most followed personal presidential account; the 9th and 10th accounts for tweets per day are both Ecuadorian; and Ecuadorian accounts occupy the 7th and 8th spots for interaction rate.  They were created in 2010 and 2011, after which the poverty rate, having gone up in 2009 after years of decline, continued falling.  Inequality rose 3 times and fell twice 2010-2015. In 2015, Ecuador had the 7th lowest poverty rate and 5th lowest Gini coefficient.

Bolivia only has a top 10 in interaction rate.  That foreign ministry account was created in 2014- since then the poverty rate rose both years and the Gini coefficient fell slightly.

Columbia’s falling poverty rate and high but falling inequality, is paired with @JuanManSantos’ account, 2nd most followed of LAC leaders.  Presidencia Colombia tweets 37 times per day, the 5th most.  The accounts were created in 2009 and 2011, after the poverty and inequality had begun to decline.

The countries with the largest inequality falls were Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Enrique Peña Nieto is the most followed Latin American leader, and the and official presidential accounts are the third and sixth most tweeting accounts. @EPN started in 2007, and the others in 2009.  Mexico’s gappy data shows consistent, slight falls in poverty, though the Gini coefficient has since risen from its 2010 low.

DR has a foreign affairs account at 6th in peer connections and a presidential account at 4th in tweets.  Both are official accounts established in 2011 and 2010, after which the Gini coefficient fluctuated and the poverty rate stagnated 3 years in a row.

The Ecuadorian case is the most compelling: multiple highly interactive accounts represent a country with generally positive policy indicators.

Maybe Ecuadorian nationals can directly interact with their government, demand policies which benefit them, and affect positive change. But the wider Twitter ecosystem, including peer connections, could be part of building an international policy consensus, establishing norms and systems which in turn could lead to more fluid diplomacy, economic coordination, and peaceful growth.

Nothing is conclusive, but this is only the beginning.  Though not convinced of a general trend, but I welcome any data, methodology, and assistance for further projects that readers can offer.


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