Digital Political Footprints

Financed by: NKFIH (K-147329)

Project start: 01/01/2024

Project duration: 36 months



In modern Western societies, social media platforms have become inescapable players. Most of the population is a member of a social media platform, which is no longer just about connecting, but can organize our entire digital existence. We can consume news, organize events, and even shop through social media sites. The digital space has rewritten how we spend our everyday lives and how we see the world around us.

Politicians have quickly recognized the potential role of the internet, particularly social media, in sending political messages. The Obama campaign in 2008 was one of the first in America to make conscious use of the online space. Although the Hungarian political actors have adapted these new methods later, today in Hungary, it is impossible to imagine an effective campaign without social media platforms. The social media pages of leading politicians in Hungary are followed by hundreds of thousands of users, and social media posts by politicians receive tens of thousands of reactions. In addition to Facebook, domestic political campaigns have already actively used YouTube and Instagram to reach more voters in the 2022 elections. But political campaigns are only one side of the coin. From a research point of view, it is just as interesting to see how politics is represented in the digital lives of potential voters today. Who are the people who follow political sites and share political news? Who are those who get trapped in online filter bubbles? To what extent does our online activity correlate with our attitudes? These research questions cannot be answered from survey data alone, and new data sources need to be brought in to investigate the topic. This research is built on the project "Donation-based digital data collection" funded by the ELKH Flagship Research Programme 2021-2023. In this project, we collected social media data (Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube, TikTok) from Hungarian social media users using a data donation method. In addition to ask them to provide their social media data, we asked them to answer a survey that explored in detail the political attitudes of the participants. The ELKH research was completed in 2023. The research rely on the above described data collection, to provide a more complex picture of people's political footprints in the digital space compared to previous research.



In the project, we conduct a secondary analysis of the data from the ELKH data donation research, building on political sociology aspects.

Our work is organized around three themes:

  • Survey versus digital data in the measurement of political activity and behavior: in the increasingly challenging survey environment, an important research question is to what extent digital data can replace survey data in the study of different policy issues and what are the research questions that can be measured with similar validity by one or the other or both methods. Within the thematic area, we also seek to answer the question of how to design survey research to measure as accurately as possible the digital spatial behavior of respondents. On the latter, our research pre-registration is available here:


  • Political homophily and political bubbles: an important research question in political sociology research on social media is how specific social media platforms amplify political homophily. Our data donation approach allows us to explore this research question in a much more complex way than previous research. 


  • Political footprints on different social media platforms: research on political behavior in the online space typically focus on one platform, Twitter. The main reason for this is that Twitter was the most easily accessible source of data. While there are sporadic studies on other platforms (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube), we are unaware of any studies that have simultaneously examined the political footprints of the same users on different social media platforms using digital data. This line of research can answer the critical question of each platform's role in transmitting political messages and how each platform's role in this regard changes over time.