Oliver Beatson


'Evaluating the merits of Survey and Observational Data in National Election Studies'

PhD summary

This project builds on the existing 2015 British Election Study (by YouGov) that merges survey and observational social media data. The goal evaluates the validity and robustness of each data source as a measure of political attitudes and behaviour.

Survey research is a method for collecting data that is widely used by social scientists in analyses of human behaviour and attitudes. Social media data, drawn from individuals’ newsfeeds and networks offer an alternative but more unstructured method of collecting large quantities of data to address the same questions. Both methods are subject to problems of representation and bias. Combining the two means we have the potential to understand people far better by analysing what they do and what they say.

Are there better ways to study attitudes and political preferences than through surveys? Can we find new insights about political behaviour by studying the websites they use, the tweets they send and the posts they write?

This observational data allows us to improve the reliability of surveys by studying between reported and actual political preferences online.

This PhD will match survey respondents’ online activities; the websites they visit, and their social media data alongside survey responses (including the British Election Study). To investigate the link between online activity and answers to YouGov social surveys.


September 2017 to September 2021




Before starting a PhD, Oliver worked as a Data Analyst for Sheffield City Council as part of the Troubled Families Data Team.

He studied Politics at Sheffield Hallam University and an MSc in Politics with Research Methods at the University of Sheffield. 


Contact details

Email: oliver.beatson@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk