Skip to main content Accessibility help

The potential of online sampling for studying political activists around the world and across time

  • Kai Jäger (a1)


Parties and social movements play an important role in many theories of political science. Yet, the study of intraparty politics remains underdeveloped as random samples are difficult to conduct among political activists. This paper proposes a novel procedure to sample different parties over time and space by utilizing the advertising option of the social media webpage Facebook. As this method allows for quotas and the collection of large samples at relatively low cost, it becomes possible to improve the representativeness through poststratification and subsample robustness checks. Three examples illustrate these advantages of Facebook sampling: First, a Facebook sample approximated intraparty decisions and the outcome of a leadership contest of the Alternative for Germany. Second, a weighted Facebook sample achieved similar estimates as a representative local leader survey of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Third, by evaluating subgroups of key demographics for parties with unknown population parameters, two Facebook samples show that the color-coded conflict in Thailand was driven by different concepts of regime type, but not by a left–right divide on economic policy-making. Facebook sampling appears to be the best and cheapest method to conduct time-series cross-sectional studies for political activists.


Corresponding author


Hide All

Author’s note: I would like to thank Ron Lehrer, Nikolay Marinov, Adam Scharpf, and Daniel Weitzel for helpful comments and suggestions. I would also like to thank Marlis Benze, Jens Meiners, and Pittaya Petchmark for survey collaboration. The ethics commission of the University of Mannheim decided that it has no general objection against the Facebook-based sampling procedure of the study. The replication materials are available on the Harvard Dataverse at Supplementary materials for this article are available on the Political Analysis website.

Contributing Editor: R. Michael Alvarez



Hide All
AfD. 2014. Bundesweite Mitgliederbefragung zur Europawahl—Auswertungen.
AfD. 2015. Ein repräsentativer Mitgliederparteitag—der Blick auf die Statistik. AfD Kompakt11/15: 4.
Alemán, J., and Yang, D. D.. 2011. A duration analysis of democratic transitions and authoritarian backslides. Comparative Political Studies 44(9):11231151.
Anek, L. 1996. A tale of two democracies: Conflicting perceptions of elections and democracy in Thailand. In The Politics of Elections in Southeast Asia , ed. Taylor, R. H.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 201233.
Arzheimer, K. 2015. The AfD: Finally a successful right-wing populist Eurosceptic party for Germany? West European Politics 38(3):535556.
Asia Foundation. 2011. 2010 National survey of the Thai electorate: Exploring national consensus and color polarization . Bangkok: Asia Foundation.
Batterham, P. J. 2014. Recruitment of mental health survey participants using internet advertising: Content, characteristics and cost effectiveness. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research 23(2):184191.
Berinsky, A. J., Huber, G. A., and Lenz, G. S.. 2012. Evaluating online labor markets for experimental research:’s Mechanical Turk. Political Analysis 20(3):351368.
Bhutta, C. B. 2012. Not by the book: Facebook as a sampling frame. Sociological Methods & Research 41(1):5788.
Broockman, D. E., and Green, D. P.. 2014. Do online advertisements increase political candidates’ name recognition or favorability? Evidence from randomized field experiments. Political Behavior 36(2):263289.
Conroy, M., Feezell, J. T., and Guerrero, M.. 2012. Facebook and political engagement: A study of online political group membership and offline political engagement. Computers in Human Behavior 28(5):15351546.
Diamond, L. 2002. Thinking about Hybrid Regimes. Journal of Democracy 13(2):2135.
Druckman, J. N., Kifer, M. J., and Parkin, M.. 2007. The technological development of congressional candidate web sites how and why candidates use web innovations. Social Science Computer Review 25(4):425442.
Giles, U. 2007. A coup for the rich. Thailand’s political crisis . Bangkok: Workers Democracy Publishing.
Gilligan, C., Kypri, K., and Bourke, J.. 2014. Social networking versus facebook advertising to recruit survey respondents: A quasi-experimental study. JMIR Research Protocols 3(3):e48.
Goel, S., and Salganik, M. J.. 2010. Assessing respondent-driven sampling. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(15):67436747.
Hicken, A. 2013. Late to the party: The development of partisanship in thailand. TRaNS: Trans-Regional and-National Studies of Southeast Asia 1(2):199213.
Jäger, K. 2012. Why did Thailand’s middle class turn against a democratically elected government? The information-gap hypothesis. Democratization 19(6):11381165.
Jäger, K.2017. Replication data for: The potential of online sampling for studying political activists around the world and across time., Harvard Dataverse.
Jäger, K., and Weitzel, D.. 2017. The non-democratic consequences of party democracy: The SPD referendum a century after Michels’ Iron Law of Oligarchy. University of Mannheim. Mimeo.
Jankowski, M., Schneider, S., and Tepe, M.. Forthcoming. Ideological alternative? Analyzing Alternative für Deutschland candidates’ ideal points via black box scaling. Party Politics.
Kapp, J. M., Peters, C., and Oliver, D. P.. 2013. Research recruitment using Facebook advertising: Big potential, big challenges. Journal of Cancer Education 28(1):134137.
Kitschelt, H. 2012. Parties and political intermediation. In The Blackwell Companion to Political Sociology , ed. Nash, K. and Scott, A.. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 149162.
Klandermans, B., and Smith, J.. 2002. Methods of Social Movement Research , ed. Klandermans, B. and Staggenborg, S.. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 331.
Kurlantzick, J. 2013. Democracy in retreat: The revolt of the middle class and the worldwide decline of representative government . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Larsson, A. O. 2016. Online, all the time? A quantitative assessment of the permanent campaign on Facebook. New Media & Society 18(2):274292.
Leber, F.2015. Für die AfD geht es jetzt um alles. Der Tagesspiegel, July 3.
Mair, P. 1990. Introduction. In The West European Party System , ed. Mair, P.. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 120.
Malhotra, N., and Krosnick, J. A.. 2007. The effect of survey mode and sampling on inferences about political attitudes and behavior: Comparing the 2000 and 2004 ANES to Internet surveys with nonprobability samples. Political Analysis 15(3):286323.
Maestas, C. D., Buttice, M. K., and Stone, W. J.. 2014. Extracting wisdom from experts and small crowds: Strategies for improving informant-based measures of political concepts. Political Analysis 22(3):354373.
McCargo, D. 2009. Thai Politics as Reality TV. Journal of Asian Studies 68(1):719.
Naruemon, T., and McCargo, D.. 2011. Urbanized villagers in the 2010 Thai Redshirt Protests. Asian Survey 51(6):9931018.
Nelson, E. J., Hughes, J., Oakes, J. M., Pankow, J. S., and Kulasingam, S. L.. 2014. Estimation of geographic variation in human papillomavirus vaccine uptake in men and women: An online survey using facebook recruitment. Journal of Medical Internet Research 16(9):e198.
Niedermayer, O. 2014. Parteimitglieder in Deutschland: Version 2014. Arbeitshefte aus dem Otto–Stammer–Zentrum, Nr. 21 . Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin.
Phongpaichit, P., and Baker, C.. 2008. Thaksin’s Populism. Journal of Contemporary Asia 38(1):6283.
Pye, O., and Schaffar, W.. 2008. The 2006 Anti-Thaksin movement in Thailand: An analysis. Journal of Contemporary Asia 38(1):3861.
Ramo, D. E., and Prochaska, J. J.. 2012. Broad reach and targeted recruitment using Facebook for an online survey of young adult substance use. Journal of Medical Internet Research 14(1):e28.
Rife, S. C., Cate, K. L., Kosinski, M., and Stillwell, D.. 2016. Participant recruitment and data collection through Facebook: The role of personality factors. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 19(1):6983.
Robertson, S. P., Vatrapu, R. K., and Medina, R.. 2010. Off the wall political discourse: Facebook use in the 2008 US presidential election. Information Polity 15(1):1131.
Ryan, T. J. 2012. What makes us click? Demonstrating incentives for angry discourse with digital-age field experiments. Journal of Politics 74(4):11381152.
Ryan, T. J., and Brader, T.. Forthcoming. Gaffe Appeal. A field experiment on partisan selective exposure to election messages. Political Science Research and Methods.
Samuels, D. J., and Zucco, C.. 2013. Using Facebook as a subject recruitment tool for survey-experimental research. University of Minnesota. Mimeo.
Samuels, D. J., and Zucco, C.. 2014. The power of partisanship in Brazil: Evidence from survey experiments. American Journal of Political Science 58(1):212225.
Schattschneider, E. E. 1942. Party Government: American Government in Action . New York: Rinehart and Co.
Steffen, T., and Jacobsen, L.. 2015. Ring frei fürs AfD-Finale. Die Zeit, July 3.
Stern. 2015. Stern-Umfrage unter AfD-Anhängern: Mehrheit für Lucke, nur 23 Prozent für Petry. Stern, July 2.
Tagesschau. 2013. Umfragen Wahlentscheidende Themen.
Tetlock, P. 2005. Expert political judgment: How good is it? How can we know? Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Thompson, M. R. 2007. The dialectic of good governance and democracy in southeast asia: Globalized discourse and local response. Globality Studies 10:121.
Tufekci, Z., and Wilson, C.. 2012. Social media and the decision to participate in political protest: Observations from Tahrir Square. Journal of Communication 62(2):363379.
Van Laer, J. 2010. Activists online and offline: The internet as an information channel for protest demonstrations. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 15(3):347366.
Vissers, S., and Stolle, D.. 2014. Spill-over effects between Facebook and on/offline political participation? Evidence from a two-wave panel study. Journal of Information Technology & Politics 11(3):259275.
Walgrave, S., Bennett, W. L., Van Laer, J., and Breunig, C.. 2011. Multiple engagements and network bridging in contentious politics: Digital media use of protest participants. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 16(3):325349.
Walgrave, S., and Verhulst, J.. 2011. Selection and response bias in protest surveys. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 16(2):203222.
Wang, W., Rothschild, D., Goel, S., and Gelman, A.. 2015. Forecasting elections with non-representative polls. International Journal of Forecasting 31(3):980991.
Zakaria, F. 1997. The rise of illiberal democracy. Foreign Affairs 76(6):2243.
MathJax is a JavaScript display engine for mathematics. For more information see
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Jäger supplementary material
Jäger supplementary material 1

 Unknown (1.1 MB)
1.1 MB

The potential of online sampling for studying political activists around the world and across time

  • Kai Jäger (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed