What is it about?

In this study, we construct a novel index to measure public sentiment regarding the Russia–Ukraine war by looking at nearly one million Facebook posts from 108 countries through a combination of four cutting-edge textual analysis approaches. In the majority of the nations in our sample, the sentiment score reveals public support for sanctions against Russia. However, when considering the strength of support, there is clear fragmentation of public sentiments between countries with different positions in the geopolitical world. The public in Western countries strongly supports the sanctions. On the contract, the public in some countries that have a geographical position close to Russia seem to be divided, only showing marginal support for sanctions against Russia. The public in key countries in Central and South America also show a high consensus in strongly supporting the sanctions. However, diverse public sentiments about sanctions against Russia could be observed in Asian and African countries. The innovative constructed public sentiment index captures the alignment between people’s attitudes and their government votes in the United Nations. The study shows that a nation’s trading relationship with Russia plays a vital role in shaping sentiment about the war. The newly constructed public sentiment index could predict 63–72% of the government votes in the United Nations after controlling for macroeconomic determinants.

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Why is it important?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been condemned as an unprovoked act of war. While the Western media has been full of criticism and condemnations of this war, some nations, particularly those part of Russian alliances, have adopted Putin's narrative and labelled it a “special military operation.” Hence, information about this war will diverge between various independent sources, which in turn means will likely lead to the public holding diverse beliefs. Given the growing momentum of literature in quantifying sentiment based on twitter, newspapers and books, our study sheds new light on the textual analysis approach by using social media posts regarding the recent war.

Perspectives

It is important that this is the first study to map sentiment scores across a wide range of nations worldwide in the context of a disruptive social event. Having co-authors with whom I have worked on many previous projects made writing this piece a real pleasure.

Phuc Nguyen
Massey University

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This page is a summary of: Public sentiment towards economic sanctions in the Russia–Ukraine war, Scottish Journal of Political Economy, July 2022, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/sjpe.12331.
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