Sentiment Analysis of Polarizing Topics in Social Media

Thursday, October 25, 2018 10:00 am - 11:50 am EDT (GMT -04:00)

Please join the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies for this Transnational Talk, featuring Dr. Gabe Ignatow, North Texas University.

We apply topic sentiment analysis (a combination of two relatively new text analysis methods) to the study of public opinion as expressed in social media by comparing reactions to the Trayvon Martin controversy in spring 2012 by commenters on the American partisan news websites the Huffington Post and Daily Caller. Topic sentiment analysis is a text analysis method that estimates the polarity of sentiments across units of text within large text corpora (Lin & He, 2009; Mei, Ling, Wondra, Su, & Zhai, 2007). Based on studies that depict contemporary news media as an “outrage industry” that incentivizes media personalities to be controversial and polarizing (Berry & Sobieraj, 2014), we predict that high-profile commentators will be more polarizing than other news personalities and topics. We apply topic sentiment analysis to public opinion as expressed in social media by comparing reactions to the Trayvon Martin controversy. Results of the analysis support our main prediction and in so doing provide partial validation of the application of topic sentiment analysis to online opinion.

Gabe Ignatow is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of North Texas. His research interests are in sociological theory, digital research methods, cognitive social science and philosophy of social science. He currently serves on the editorial boards of Sociological Forum and the Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior. Along with two recent books on text mining co-authored with Rada Mihalcea, Gabe has co-authored a forthcoming volume on digital social research methods and co-edited the Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Sociology. He is currently working on a sociological theory monograph while serving as his department's graduate program director.

The Transnational Talks series is a new Department of Sociology and Legal Studies initiative supported by Waterloo International, which aims to foster international collaboration and enhance methods training and exposure among faculty and students.