Communicating Europe: A computational analysis of the evolution of the European Commission’s communication on Twitter

Roberta Rocca*, Katharina Lawall, Manos Tsakiris, Laura Cram

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Social media is an important means of communication for political agencies, which makes it possible to engage with large sectors of the public. For institutions which are not directly elected by voters, such as the European Commission (EC), social media can be a strategic tool for increasing perceived legitimacy and citizen engagement, especially in contexts of high politicization. In this paper, we use natural language processing techniques to provide a comprehensive overview of how EC communication on Twitter has evolved between 2010 and 2022, with respect to both its topics and its style. Our analyses show that, over time, the focus of EC communication has shifted substantially from economy-, finance- and governance-related topics, towards social policy, digital and environmental policy, and identity. These changes have progressively differentiated the EC’s profile from that of other institutions (especially more technocratic ones) and contributed to better alignment with engagement patterns of its social media audience. In addition, EC communication has become less neutral (in favor of more positive sentiment), simpler, and more readable, all features which are associated with more accessible and engaging messaging. Yet, while the EC currently scores better than most other reference agencies on several descriptors of accessibility, its style is still lexically more complex, less concrete and less action-oriented than that of other institutions. Alongside providing novel insights on how the EC’s online communication and projected political identity have changed over time, this study lays the foundations for future experimental and hypothesis-driven work combining social media data with external data sources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-52
JournalJournal of Computational Social Science
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • European Commission
  • natural language processing
  • political communication
  • politicization
  • Twitter


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