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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Google Correlations: New approaches to collecting data for statistical network analysis

  • Author(s): Mahdavi, Paasha
  • Advisor(s): Handcock, Mark S
  • et al.
Abstract

This thesis introduces a new method for data collection on political elite networks using non-obtrusive web-based techniques. One possible indicator of elite connectivity is the frequency with which individuals appear at the same political events. Using a Google search scraping algorithm (Lee 2010) to capture how often pairs of individuals appear in the same news articles reporting on these events, I construct network matrices for a given list of individuals that I identify as elites using a variety of criteria. To assess cross-validity and conceptual accuracy, I compare data from this method to previously collected data on the network connectedness of three separate populations. I then supply an application of the Google method to collect network data on the Nigerian oil elite in 2012. Conducting a network analysis, I show that appointments to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation board of directors are made on the basis of political connectivity and not necessarily on technical experience or merit. These findings lend support to hypotheses that leaders use patronage appointments to lucrative bureaucratic positions in order to satisfy political elites. Given that many political theories on elite behavior aim to understand individual- and group-level interactions, the potential applicability of network data using the proposed technique is very large, especially in situations where collecting network data intrusively is costly or prohibitive.

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