Michael Jantscher


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Causal Investigation of Public Opinion during the COVID-19 Pandemic via Social Media Text
Michael Jantscher | Roman Kern
Proceedings of the Thirteenth Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

Understanding the needs and fears of citizens, especially during a pandemic such as COVID-19, is essential for any government or legislative entity. An effective COVID-19 strategy further requires that the public understand and accept the restriction plans imposed by these entities. In this paper, we explore a causal mediation scenario in which we want to emphasize the use of NLP methods in combination with methods from economics and social sciences. Based on sentiment analysis of Tweets towards the current COVID-19 situation in the UK and Sweden, we conduct several causal inference experiments and attempt to decouple the effect of government restrictions on mobility behavior from the effect that occurs due to public perception of the COVID-19 strategy in a country. To avoid biased results we control for valid country specific epidemiological and time-varying confounders. Comprehensive experiments show that not all changes in mobility are caused by countries implemented policies but also by the support of individuals in the fight against this pandemic. We find that social media texts are an important source to capture citizens’ concerns and trust in policy makers and are suitable to evaluate the success of government policies.