The “social media,” like Facebook, Sina Weibo and Twitter, have allowed millions of formerly anonymous individuals to broadcast their opinions to the broad public. Now, a researcher at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre (http://jmsc.hku.hk) is combining those individual posts and tweets into a gauge of public opinion in Hong Kong.
Dr. King-wa Fu, a research assistant professor at the JMSC, says the purpose of his study is to understand the nature of online public opinion here, and to develop a robust method for sampling and analysing it. Fu presented his project at a media research seminar called “Public Opinion in HK: A Big Data Approach,” on March 2.
He told the seminar that gathering public opinion through telephone interviews and grabbing them off the Internet are “two totally different things”.
“Telephone interviews randomly pick a sample from the population and people just passively answer the question,” Fu said. “It doesn’t mean people really have an opinion on that issue and seeing an unknown caller-ID number, some people just hang up.”
He said online postings and chat can be much more informative. “There are a lot of people contributing actively and voluntarily to the online domain, so why don’t we look at this kind of opinion?” he asked.
Fu’s research collects daily data from people whose online profile is based in Hong Kong, and who mention government-related key words. He uses the major online platforms, such as discuss.come.hk, uwant.com, hkgolden.com, hkreporter, Twitter, Sina Weibo, blogs and Facebook.
The project is funded by the the Hong Kong government’s Central Policy Unit to look into Hong Kongers’ views about government performance.