Using Social Media Data to Reveal Patterns of Policy Engagement in State Legislatures

Julia Payson, Andreu Casas, Jonathan Nagler, Richard Bonneau, Joshua A. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


State governments are tasked with making important policy decisions in the United States. How do state legislators use their public communications - particularly social media - to engage with policy debates? Due to previous data limitations, we lack systematic information about whether and how state legislators publicly discuss policy and how this behavior varies across contexts. Using Twitter data and state-of-the-art topic modeling techniques, we introduce a method to study state legislator policy priorities and apply the method to 15 US states in 2018. We show that we are able to accurately capture the policy issues discussed by state legislators with substantially more accuracy than existing methods. We then present initial findings that validate the method and speak to debates in the literature. The paper concludes by discussing promising avenues for future state politics research using this new approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-395
Number of pages25
JournalState Politics and Policy Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 18 2022


  • comparative agendas project
  • public policy
  • social media
  • state legislatures
  • topic models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations


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