Using social media data to understand public opinion about nuclear weapons
How do citizens think and feel about nuclear weapons? And what impact does public opinion about nuclear weapons have on the maintenance of deterrence and the possibility for disarmament? These questions have been central to recent scholarship on understanding the non-use of nuclear weapons since August 1945. In this paper I build upon research on public opinion about nuclear weapons by demonstrating how social media data can help to understand how members of the public think about, and feel emotions towards, nuclear weapons. Through an analysis of the 20,000 most popular publicly available Facebook posts on the topic of nuclear weapons published between January 2016 and May 2022, I trace the representation of nuclear weaponson Facebook. I then thematically analyze the 500 most popular Facebook posts on nuclear weapons to understand how nuclear weapons are framed online, before analyzing public interactions with these posts to explore public opinion about nuclear weapons. In doing so, I go beyond studies that draw upon opinion polls and survey experiments to highlight how social media data can provide an insight intohow people already express their thoughts and feelings about nuclear weapons in their everyday lives. Such an analysis contributes insights into how the legitimacy of nuclear weapons is constructed and contested at the dawn of a dangerous ‘new nuclear age’.