SOSEC is an innovative longitudinal study that introduces a pioneering approach, which will serve as a model for future research projects.
To achieve this, SOSEC adopts the experience sampling method from psychology. By using representative panels, social sentiment will be continuously surveyed in a simple and accessible manner.
Using representative panel surveys and agent-based models of opinion dynamics, SOSEC continuously observes and evaluates how developments unfold in the crisis situation. It is a quantitative social sentiment survey that is novel in this form. In a very simple and low-threshold way, participants (4,500 participants, of which 1,500 live in Germany and 3,000 live in the US) are given the same questionnaire once a week between November 2022 and April 2023 via an app. In SOSEC, researchers matched social sentiment data with other events in two ways: 1) news event monitoring and 2) through social media monitoring. Automated matching of responses with current events allows for conclusions to be drawn between news and social sentiment, while also verifying how representative social media debates are.
The research project directly compares developments in the U.S. and Germany. This can lead to a deeper understanding of which real and media events trigger and drive polarization effects and also how these effects can be counteracted in the future. Demographic data can be used to identify differences in various social groups – including categories such as age, occupation, income groups, regions, tenants/homeowners or social milieus.
Once this research project has been successfully completed, it will be possible to identify connections between disinformation and polarization effects and to take targeted action against them in order to bolster democracy and to prevent tipping points in society.