The Washington Post
Joshua Tucker: One of the biggest stories of 2013 was the continued rise of social media usage worldwide. The end of the year also saw the emergence of unexpected protests in Ukraine, which we covered here at The Monkey Cage. In the following guest post, Oxford University (Nuffield College) political scientist Olga Onuch reports on new survey data that sheds important light on both the “social” component of social media in driving the Euromaidan protests, as well as the continuing importance of social media both on and off line.
Ukrainian activists, local and international news media, as well as political scientists, have pointed out the importance of social media in the recent “Euromaidan” protests in Ukraine. Many reports have credited initial tweets by journalists and activists as the key mechanism that brought hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians out into the streets. Other reports have focused on the “Millennials” as the drivers of and main participants of the protest-events. Yet, a recent British Academy funded survey of protest participants, by Tamara Martsenyuk and myself, launched on Nov. 27, points to a more complex picture.
Since Nov. 27, 20 interviewers have been conducting surveys at Kiev protest sites for two to three hours each day. A strict random sampling strategy has been employed, whereby only every sixth protester was approached. Thus far, we have surveyed 1,203 protest participants (and counting). We have complimented the survey data with daily documentation of protest slogans and signage (digital video and photography), as well as rapid interviews with a smaller sample of protesters (n= 200). Some of the preliminary findings from our study are surprising and incongruent with reports from news media outlets: 1) Protesters are older than expected. 2) Protesters are more diverse than expected. 3) Social media are important, but not simply as a provider of information about existence of protests. 4) Social-networks – both within and outside of social media – seem to be highly influential in bring people out into the streets. 5) Social media and Internet news sites seem to have been successfully used as key framing devices for protest themes… MORE