Professor in Political Science and Computer and Information Science

David Lazer

21st Century Democracy

How is our democracy adapting to the potential of the Internet?

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Most of my research in this area has examined the impact of the Internet on the relationship between citizens and their representatives.

The Connecting to Congress project, which I’ve led with Kevin Esterling and Michael Neblo, has focused on how Members of Congress have (and have not) utilized the Internet, and also conducted field experiments to examine the impact of online townhalls on citizens.

21st Century Democracy: Publications List

Publications list

K. Esterling, M. Neblo, and D. Lazer, “Means, Motive, & Opportunity in Becoming Informed About Politics: A Deliberative Field Experiment with Members of Congress and Their Constituents,” Public Opinion Quarterly, forthcoming.

K. Esterling, M. Neblo, and D. Lazer, “Estimating Treatment Effects in the Presence of Noncompliance and Nonresponse: The Generalized Endogenous Treatment Model”, Political Analysis, forthcoming.

K. Esterling, M. Neblo, and D. Lazer, Connecting to Constituents: The Diffusion of Representation Practices among Congressional Websites, Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming.

M. Binz-Scharf, D. Lazer, and I. Mergel,  Searching for answers: Networks of Practice among Public Administrators. American Review of Public Administration, 41(2), 2012: 202-225.

K. Esterling, D. Lazer, and M. Neblo, “Representative Communication: Website Interactivity & Distributional Path Dependence in the U.S. Congress,” Political Communication, 28, 2011:  409-439.

D. Lazer, K. Esterling and M. Neblo, “The Internet and the Madisonian Cycle:  Possibilities and Prospects for Consultative Representation,” in S. Coleman and P. Shane, Connecting Democracy: Online Consultation and the Flow of Political Communication.  MIT Press, 2011. 

D. Lazer, I. Mergel, C. Ziniel, K. Esterling, and M. Neblo, “The multiple institutional logics of innovation,” International Public Management Journal, 14, 2011: 311-340.

 M. Neblo, K. Esterling, R. Kennedy, D. Lazer, and A. Sokhey, Who wants to deliberate—and Why,” American Political Science Review 104(3), 2010:  566-583.
Awarded Heinz Eulau award for best paper in the APSR in 2010.

 V. Mayer-Schönberger, and D. Lazer, Governance and Information Technology. From Electronic Government to Information Government, MIT press 2007

V. Mayer-Schönberger, and D. Lazer, Governance and Information Technology: From Electronic Government to Information Government, MIT press: 2007.

Developments in information and communication technology and networked computing over the past two decades have given rise to the notion of electronic government, most commonly used to refer to the delivery of public services over the Internet. This volume argues for a shift from the narrow focus of "electronic government"...more at MIT Press. Purchase from Amazon, B&N.

Journal Article
Publication date: 
08/2015
Authors: 
Drew B. Margolin
Brian Keegan
Sasha Goodman
Yu-Ru Lin
David Lazer

The use of socio-technical data to predict elections is a growing research area. We argue that election prediction research suffers from under-specified theoretical models that do not properly distinguish between 'poll-like' and 'prediction market-like' mechanisms understand findings.

Keywords: 
election prediction
crowdsourcing
Wikipedia
politics
social media
communication studies
OP ED
Publication date: 
08/2015
Authors: 
David Lazer
Oren Tsur
Katherine Ognyanova
Ryan P. Kennedy

While numerous political commentators have offered up their opinion about who won or lost last week's GOP debate, we here at the Lazer Lab at Northeastern University spent the last week looking at the numbers. Actually, we looked at the words: What did candidates actually talk about? How much did they talk, and for how long? The answers gave us three new ways to think about what mattered in the debate, and who won.

OP ED
Publication date: 
05/2014
Authors: 
David Lazer

It's too easy to be led astray by the lure of big data.

Google Flu Trends has long been the go-to example for anyone asserting the revolutionary potential of big data. Since 2008 the company has claimed it could use counts of flu-related Web searches to forecast flu outbreaks weeks ahead of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

OP ED
Publication date: 
04/2017
Authors: 
David Lazer
Michael Neblo

In politics, it's become conventional wisdom that talking seriously to regular Americans doesn't really pay off. Numerous studies have found that citizens appear to dig in their heels, resisting information that contradicts their beliefs - if they're informed enough to have meaningful beliefs in the first place.

OP ED
Publication date: 
06/2015
Authors: 
David Lazer
Oren Tsur
Katherine Ognyanova

Democrats talk about Iraq; Republicans talk about.........Panama?

This week is a big one for America's global relations. While Congress started hashing out whether to hand the president authority to finish the largest trade deal in history, Obama was wrapping up the G-7 economic summit in Germany.

OP ED
Publication date: 
09/2015
Authors: 
David Lazer
Oren Tsur
Katherine Ognyanova
Ryan P. Kennedy

Crunching the words, experts find Trump got the attention, Rubio made the most of his chances and Jeb squandered them.

OP ED
Publication date: 
10/2015
Authors: 
David Lazer
Ryan P. Kennedy

Every day, millions of people use Google to dig up information that drives their daily lives, from how long their commute will be to how to treat their child's illness. This search data reveals a kit about the searchers: their wants, their needs, their concerns - extraordinarily valuable information.

OP ED
Publication date: 
01/2016
Authors: 
Ryan P. Kennedy
David Lazer
Oren Tsur

Barack Obama can spin a good phrase, and while his political opponents like to say his actions don't always match his soaring rhetoric, there's no denying the man has said a lot: So far in his presidency, he's given more than 2,000 official speeches, uttering about 3.5 million different words. So what has he actually been telling us?

Peer Reviewed Computer Science Conference
Publication date: 
07/2012
Authors: 
Yu-Ru Lin
James P. Bagrow
David Lazer

Social media, such as blogs, are often seen as democratic entities that allow more voices to be heard than the conventional mass or elite media. Some also feel that social media exhibits a balancing force against the arguably slanted elite media. A systematic comparison between social and mainstream media is necessary but challenging due to the scale and dynamic nature of modern communicatiion.