Quasi-Experimental Designs for Assessing Response on Social Media to Policy Changes
Regulation of tobacco products is rapidly evolving. Understanding public sentiment in response to changes is very important as authorities assess how to effectively protect population health. Social media systems are widely recognized to be useful for collecting data about human preferences and perceptions. However, how social media data may be used, in rapid policy change settings, given challenges of narrow time periods and specific locations and non-representative the population using social media is an open question. In this paper we apply quasi-experimental designs, which have been used previously in observational data such as social media, to control for time and location confounders on social media, and then use content analysis of Twitter and Reddit posts to illustrate the content of reactions to tobacco flavor bans and the effect of taxation on e-cigarettes. Conclusions distill the potential role of social media in settings of rapidly changing regulation, in complement to what is learned by traditional denominator-based representative surveys.