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Social media use and the #25jan Egyptian uprising (ECREA 2012, Istanbul)


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Previous studies have shown that social media use among participants in the 25 January Egyptian uprising was high and that protesters indicate that social media were important in their decision to join the protests (Tufekci & Wilson, 2012; Wilson & Dunn, 2011). Other studies suggest that the attitudes toward the regime and toward democracy in general prior to the uprising were no different from non-users (Norris, 2012). So far, no direct comparison has been made between protesters and a equivalent group of non-protesters in terms of their social media use. In this paper, we use data that have been gathered by Vote Compass Egypt, an online voting tool, to compare protesters and non-protesters in how important they rate different sources of political information. The results show that participants in the 25 January uprising rely more on Facebook and Twitter to get political information, and less on mass media (radio and TV). The association between protest participation and social media use is mediated by higher optimism about the future of the country, more democratic attitudes and less trust in government. Use of mass media is associated with less protest participation through more trust in government.

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Social media use and the #25jan Egyptian uprising (ECREA 2012, Istanbul)

  1. 1. Social media use and participation in the January 25 Egyptian uprisingPeter KerkhofAndre KrouwelJacquelien van StekelenburgBert KlandermansVU University AmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2. Social media & protest Four functions of social media (Norris, 2011) 1. informational (spreading knowledge, awareness, and news) 2. networking (coordinating collective actions and organizing movements) 3. cultural (strengthening democratic aspirations and critical evaluations of regime performance) 4. behavioral (reinforcing the propensity for citizens to engage in protest acts challenging the regime) Did social media play this role in the Egyptian uprising?
  3. 3. Survey evidence so far Norris (2011)  2007 data:  Political activism in Egypt related to  media use (and especially) internet use  2010 data:  social media considered helpful for becoming involved in politics for 25-33% of population  in 2010 Egyptian social media users were…..  more hopeful about the future of Egypt  more positive about the economy  as (un)democratic as non-users of social media
  4. 4. Survey evidence so far Tahrir data set (Wilson & Dunn, 2011; Tufekci and Wilson, 2012)  Interviews with 1200 protesters at Tahrir square  End of February 2011 (2 weeks after Mubarak resignation) High internet use, high use of social media Social media information most important motivator for participation 1st day participation related to social media use
  5. 5. Survey evidence so far No comparison groups  Do protesters rely more on social media for political information than (otherwise equal) non-protesters? No underlying processes  How are social media use and attitudes (e.g. democratic attitudes) related to protest participation? Our study:  Relate social media use to protest participation  Study of underlying processes
  6. 6. Our study
  7. 7. Our study Vote Compass Egypt Egyptian parliamentary elections Data collection nov-dec 2011 80.000 respondents 1152 Egyptians (and living in Egypt), answered all additional questions  46% participated in street protests, 16% participated on January 25th  Av. 34 years old, 79% male  Highly educated: 86% university degree (Wilson & Dunn, 2011: 77%)  98.4% Arab language  57% Cairo, 14% Alexandria, 5% Giza
  8. 8. Measures Political information sources:  How important are the following sources for you to get information about politics ?  television, radio, internet news sites, newspapers, word-of mouth from family /friends, prayers & meetings at mosque /church, place of work, organized meetings, SMS, pamphlets and signs, and Facebook/Twitter Democratic attitudes  There should be no restrictions on the right to demonstrate  There should be absolute freedom to report on social and political issues  The state should give up all its media ownership  There should be some restrictions on the content of books and films
  9. 9. Measures Optimism about the future:  How do you think the situation of the country will be in five years? (1=much better, 2=somewhat better, 3=somewhat worse, 4=much worse), reverse coded Trust in government:  How much do you trust the following institutions: police, government, judiciary, and state run media (1=a lot, 2=a little, 3=not really, 4=not at all), reverse coded
  10. 10. Results
  11. 11. Results
  12. 12. Results Democratic attitudes .148 .406 (.031) (.068) .239 Use (.070) ParticipationFacebook in street /Twitter .346 protest .089 (.026) (.081) Optimism -.081 -.317 (.022) (.096) Trust in government
  13. 13. Results Democratic attitudes + + Use + ParticipationFacebook in street /Twitter protest + + Optimism - - Trust in government
  14. 14. Results Democratic attitudes + Use + Participationorganized in streetmeetings protest + + Optimism - Trust in government
  15. 15. Results Democratic attitudes + ParticipationUse radio /TV in street protest + Optimism + - Trust in government
  16. 16. To conclude Social media use is related to protest participation Other media are related as well, but in other ways Mediation partly by democratic attitudes, distrust in government and optimism about Egypt’s future Limitations:  Self selected sample  Not entirely representative of protesters  Not at all representative of Egyptian population  Correlation ≠ causation (but it’s a start)  TV: state-run or satellite?