Political elites are people who influence political outcomes in a country. Networks of political elites are formed through relationships among these actors: kinship, co-religion, support and consultation, co-attendance at a school, and so on. My dissertation is about the empirical and theoretical study of these networks.
Empirically, I use Wikidata as a source of data for the study of kinship ties among people in positions of power in countries around the globe. Wikidata is the only source of data to my knowledge that has machine readable data on politicians, military officials, businesspeople, clergy, etc. with many layers of ties among them, including kinship ties, for almost all countries in the world. I find that kinship ties in authoritarian countries are denser than those in democratic countries.
Theoretically, I work on coalition-building process among the elites from a network perspective. In a network formation game where each elite actor can send support ties to every other actor, I look into the impact of ideological polarization on the eventual ruling coalition. I find that ideologically polarized environments lead to fewer Nash equilibria and a more unequal distribution of power in the ruling coalition, with the leader amassing more power at the expense of those in the coalition.
I also do research on social media. Our work with colleagues on anti-vaccine content on YouTube, which was conducted pre-Covid-19 but seems of increased relevance now, shows how YouTube’s placement of a Wikipedia knowledge panel was influential in curbing the spread of misinformation related to vaccines. You can view the paper here.