Our research uses techniques from natural language processing, computational linguistics, and machine learning to examine how people talk and write about political issues that cross borders. We are particularly interested in issues related to human rights, migration, and European integration.

We currently have several areas of active research, described briefly below. In addition, students are encouraged to develop their own projects (especially in the form of a senior thesis) once they have acquired the necessary training and familiarity with text analysis techniques and the issue-specific literature.

International Relations and Twitter

Increasingly, public opinion on foreign policy issues is debated and shaped on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. We study the framing of different such issues, including migration and pandemics, paying particular attention to the role of opinion leaders such as politicians and media figures. We also compare the debates across different languages, to elucidate how national contexts affect the framing of common issues

Illustration: ITshnik,, CC-BY-SA 2.0

European solidarity

How strong is solidarity across the European Union, and how might we measure it? With whom do Europeans tend to feel solidarity, and why? Does solidarity mean different things to different people? All of these questions are crucial to the long-term prospects of European integration, and all are resistant to easy measurement. We use large corpora of texts about Europe, about countries in Europe, and about regions within a country to try to home in on the meaning and implications of solidarity in these different contexts.

Illustration: Fabien Vienne ‘Cooperation Intereuropeenne’

Media coverage of foreign and minority groups

Do the media cover different groups of people differently? When they write about minority groups, does the average tone (positive, negative, etc.) of articles change? Do they frame similar issues in different ways depending on whether the group involved is domestic or foreign? Do any of these patterns change over time? We address these questions by collecting and analyzing corpora of hundreds of thousands of articles about different groups and comparing and contrasting their contents.

Framing migrants and refugees

Migration is a thorny political issue almost everywhere. How are public opinion and policy choices affected by the way people think about migrants? Our research looks the media’s role in framing migrants as similar to or different from refugees or survivors of cross-border human trafficking; how celebrity involvement in public debates may change perceptions; and how political leaders may drive waves of public interest or concern.

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Photo: Mstyslav Chernov (Wikimedia Commons, 43060174, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Legislative debates on foreign policy

We focus in particular on foreign aid policy. While development agencies largely control individual project decision, national legislatures (the U.S. Congress, the British Parliament, etc.) generally have considerable influence over broad policy outlines. Our goal is to identify the arguments for or against foreign aid that shape legislative outcomes, and to uncover patterns over time and across donor states in the salience of particular arguments. These patterns, in turn, can be used to improve our understanding of aid policy decision-making.

Photo: David Iliff - European Parliament, 2014. (CC BY-SA 3.0)