LocalView: Scaling Up the Study of Local Politics and Policy-Making in the United States

Date: 5 February 2024

Time: 3-4PM

Venue: Informatics 1.16 / Zoom

Authors/Speakers: Soubkhik Barari

Despite the fundamental importance of American local governments for services like education and public health, local policy-making remains difficult to study at scale due to a lack of centralized data. In this talk, I introduce LocalView, the largest existing dataset of real-time local government public meetings–the central policy-making process in American local government. In sum, the dataset covers more than 100,000 videos and their corresponding textual and audio transcripts of local government meetings publicly uploaded to YouTube from more than 1,000 places and 2,000 distinct governments across the United States between 2006–2023. I discuss how the data are processed, downloaded, cleaned, and publicly disseminated (at localview.net) for analysis across places and over time. Finally, I show how LocalView can be useful for social science and journalistic applications such as measuring political polarization in local politics and tracking shifts in public health attention across geography.

About the Speaker: Soubhik Barari is a quantitative political scientist and data scientist. His academic research explores the dynamics and effects of online misinformation, public deliberation in local politics, media coverage in U.S. elections, and political cues from corporations. Currently, he is a Quantitative Social Scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and an A.M. in Statistics from Harvard. Previously, he has worked in research and data science roles at SurveyMonkey and Microsoft Research. He writes about politics, data, and social science for a Substack newsletter called Somewhat Unlikely (somewhatunlikely.substack.com). See his website for more information (soubhikbarari.com).