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Article ReferenceNew Data Sources in Social Science Research: Things to Know Before Working With Reddit Data
Social media are becoming more popular as a source of data for social science researchers. These data are plentiful and offer the potential to answer new research questions at smaller geographies and for rarer subpopulations. When deciding whether to use data from social media, it is useful to learn as much as possible about the data and its source. Social media data have properties quite different from those with which many social scientists are used to working, so the assumptions often used to plan and manage a project may no longer hold. For example, social media data are so large that they may not be able to be processed on a single machine; they are in file formats with which many researchers are unfamiliar, and they require a level of data transformation and processing that has rarely been required when using more traditional data sources (e.g., survey data). Unfortunately, this type of information is often not obvious ahead of time as much of this knowledge is gained through word-of-mouth and experience. In this article, we attempt to document several challenges and opportunities encountered when working with Reddit, the self-proclaimed “front page of the Internet” and popular social media site. Specifically, we provide descriptive information about the Reddit site and its users, tips for using organic data from Reddit for social science research, some ideas for conducting a survey on Reddit, and lessons learned in merging survey responses with Reddit posts. While this article is specific to Reddit, researchers may also view it as a list of the type of information one may seek to acquire prior to conducting a project that uses any type of social media data.
Located in MPRC People / Frauke Kreuter, Ph.D. / Frauke Kreuter Publications
Article Reference Troff document (with manpage macros)Does Benefit Framing Improve Record Linkage Consent Rates? A Survey Experiment
Survey researchers are increasingly seeking opportunities to link interview data with administrative records. However, obtaining consent from all survey respondents (or certain subgroups) remains a barrier to performing record linkage in many studies. We experimentally investigated whether emphasizing different benefits of record linkage to respondents in a telephone survey of employee working conditions improves respondents’ willingness to consent to linkage of employment administrative records relative to a neutral consent request. We found that emphasizing linkage benefits related to “time savings” yielded a small, albeit statistically significant, improvement in the overall linkage consent rate (86.0) relative to the neutral consent request (83.8 percent). The time savings argument was particularly effective among “busy” respondents. A second benefit argument related to “improved study value” did not yield a statistically significant improvement in the linkage consent rate (84.4 percent) relative to the neutral request. This benefit argument was also ineffective among the subgroup of respondents considered to be most likely to have a self-interest in the study outcomes. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the practical implications of these findings and offers suggestions for possible research extensions.
Located in MPRC People / Frauke Kreuter, Ph.D. / Frauke Kreuter Publications
Article Reference Troff document (with manpage macros)Change Through Data: A Data Analytics Training Program for Government Employees
From education to health to criminal justice, government regulation and policy decisions have important effects on social and individual experiences. New data science tools applied to data created by government agencies have the potential to enhance these meaningful decisions. However, certain institutional barriers limit the realization of this potential. First, we need to provide systematic training of government employees in data analytics. Second we need a careful rethinking of the rules and technical systems that protect data in order to expand access to linked individual-level data across agencies and jurisdictions, while maintaining privacy. Here, we describe a program that has been run for the last three years by the University of Maryland, New York University, and the University of Chicago, with partners such as Ohio State University, Indiana University/Purdue University, Indianapolis, and the University of Missouri. The program—which trains government employees on how to perform applied data analysis with confidential individual-level data generated through administrative processes, and extensive project-focused work—provides both online and onsite training components. Training takes place in a secure environment. The aim is to help agencies tackle important policy problems by using modern computational and data analysis methods and tools. We have found that this program accelerates the technical and analytical development of public sector employees. As such, it demonstrates the potential value of working with individual-level data across agency and jurisdictional lines. We plan to build on this initial success by creating a larger community of academic institutions, government agencies, and foundations that can work together to increase the capacity of governments to make more efficient and effective decisions.
Located in MPRC People / Frauke Kreuter, Ph.D. / Frauke Kreuter Publications
Article ReferencePredicting Voting Behavior Using Digital Trace Data
A major concern arising from ubiquitous tracking of individuals’ online activity is that algorithms may be trained to predict personal sensitive information, even for users who do not wish to reveal such information. Although previous research has shown that digital trace data can accurately predict sociodemographic characteristics, little is known about the potentials of such data to predict sensitive outcomes. Against this background, we investigate in this article whether we can accurately predict voting behavior, which is considered personal sensitive information in Germany and subject to strict privacy regulations. Using records of web browsing and mobile device usage of about 2,000 online users eligible to vote in the 2017 German federal election combined with survey data from the same individuals, we find that online activities do not predict (self-reported) voting well in this population. These findings add to the debate about users’ limited control over (inaccurate) personal information flows.
Located in MPRC People / Frauke Kreuter, Ph.D. / Frauke Kreuter Publications
Article Reference Troff document (with manpage macros)Trust and cooperative behavior: Evidence from the realm of data-sharing
Trust is praised by many social scientists as the foundation of functioning social systems owing to its assumed connection to cooperative behavior. The existence of such a link is still subject to debate. In the present study, we first highlight important conceptual issues within this debate. Second, we examine previous evidence, highlighting several issues. Third, we present findings from an original experiment, in which we tried to identify a “real” situation that allowed us to measure both trust and cooperation. People’s expectations and behavior when they decide to share (or not) their data represents such a situation, and we make use of corresponding data. We found that there is no relationship between trust and cooperation. This non-relationship may be rationalized in different ways which, in turn, provides important lessons for the study of the trust—behavior nexus beyond the particular situation we study empirically.
Located in MPRC People / Frauke Kreuter, Ph.D. / Frauke Kreuter Publications
Article ReferenceThe effect of framing and placement on linkage consent
Numerous surveys link interview data to administrative records, conditional on respondent consent, in order to explore new and innovative research questions. Optimizing the linkage consent rate is a critical step toward realizing the scientific advantages of record linkage and minimizing the risk of linkage consent bias. Linkage consent rates have been shown to be particularly sensitive to certain design features, such as where the consent question is placed in the questionnaire and how the question is framed. However, the interaction of these design features and their relative contributions to the linkage consent rate have never been jointly studied, raising the practical question of which design feature (or combination of features) should be prioritized from a consent rate perspective. We address this knowledge gap by reporting the results of a placement and framing experiment embedded within separate telephone and Web surveys. We find a significant interaction between placement and framing of the linkage consent question on the consent rate. The effect of placement was larger than the effect of framing in both surveys, and the effect of framing was only evident in the Web survey when the consent question was placed at the end of the questionnaire. Both design features had negligible impact on linkage consent bias for a series of administrative variables available for consenters and non-consenters. We conclude this research note with guidance on the optimal administration of the linkage consent question.
Located in MPRC People / Frauke Kreuter, Ph.D. / Frauke Kreuter Publications
Article Reference Troff document (with manpage macros)Tree-based Machine Learning Methods for Survey Research
Predictive modeling methods from the field of machine learning have become a popular tool across various disciplines for exploring and analyzing diverse data. These methods often do not require specific prior knowledge about the functional form of the relationship under study and are able to adapt to complex non-linear and non-additive interrelations between the outcome and its predictors while focusing specifically on prediction performance. This modeling perspective is beginning to be adopted by survey researchers in order to adjust or improve various aspects of data collection and/or survey management. To facilitate this strand of research, this paper (1) provides an introduction to prominent tree-based machine learning methods, (2) reviews and discusses previous and (potential) prospective applications of tree-based supervised learning in survey research, and (3) exemplifies the usage of these techniques in the context of modeling and predicting nonresponse in panel surveys.
Located in MPRC People / Frauke Kreuter, Ph.D. / Frauke Kreuter Publications
Article Reference Troff document (with manpage macros)Willingness to participate in passive mobile data collection
The rising penetration of smartphones now gives researchers the chance to collect data from smartphone users through passive mobile data collection via apps. Examples of passively collected data include geolocation, physical movements, online behavior and browser history, and app usage. However, to passively collect data from smartphones, participants need to agree to download a research app to their smartphone. This leads to concerns about nonconsent and nonparticipation. In the current study, we assess the circumstances under which smartphone users are willing to participate in passive mobile data collection. We surveyed 1,947 members of a German nonprobability online panel who own a smartphone using vignettes that described hypothetical studies where data are automatically collected by a research app on a participant’s smartphone. The vignettes varied the levels of several dimensions of the hypothetical study, and respondents were asked to rate their willingness to participate in such a study. Willingness to participate in passive mobile data collection is strongly influenced by the incentive promised for study participation but also by other study characteristics (sponsor, duration of data collection period, option to switch off the app) as well as respondent characteristics (privacy and security concerns, smartphone experience).
Located in MPRC People / Christopher Antoun, Ph.D. / Christopher Antoun Publications
Report on Big Data in Survey Research
Frauke Kreuter and colleagues debate key methodological issues in Public Opinion Quarterly article
Located in Research / Selected Research
Report on Big Data in Survey Research
Public Opinion Quarterly
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