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Etienne Gagnon (University of Tokyo), “Good News or Bad News? Political Social Media Messaging During the Tokyo Olympics”

April 20 @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm EDT

U.S. ET: April 20 (Thursday), 8 – 9 PM

JST: April 21 (Friday), 9 – 10 AM

Zoom Registration: Link

Paper is available here

Authors: Etienne Gagnon (University of Tokyo), Kenneth McElwain (University of Tokyo), and Yuya Shibuya (University of Tokyo)

Sporting events that are unrelated to political competence can nevertheless improve politicians’ standing among voters. The impact of
such cues rests on two assumptions: that voters view sporting events positively, and that politicians seek credit for them. We examine
these linkages in a context where both assumptions may be violated: the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Olympics were politically divisive, as
they were held amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, politicians may have hesitated from lauding Olympics achievements lest they be accused of downplaying Covid’s dangers. We examine this strategic dilemma through two types of analyses. First, we conduct
topic clustering and sentiment analysis of politicians’ social media messages and show two patterns. Governing party (LDP) politicians
engaged in quantitatively more, and tonally more positive, messaging during the Olympics. LDP politicians were also more likely to post
positively about the Olympics when an athlete from their prefecture won a medal. Second, we examine pre- and post-Olympics changes
in public sentiment using multi-wave survey data. Those whose views towards the Olympics became more favorable were more likely to
change their party affinity to the LDP and to evaluate the prime minister’s handling of Covid positively. Overall, our analysis suggests that despite the LDP’s tentative social media messaging about the Olympics, the event itself seems to have borne political fruit.

Presenter: Etienne Gagnon (University of Tokyo)

Discussants: Eunji Kim (Columbia University), Neil Malhotra (Stanford University)

Chair: Daniel M. Smith (Columbia University)


April 20
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm EDT