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Depiction of Health. 2021;12: 298-309.
doi: 10.34172/doh.2021.29
  Abstract View: 108
  PDF Download: 61

Public Health

Research

COVID-19 Pandemic Tweets by Iranian Political Elites: A Content Analysis Study

Shabnam Ghasemyani 1* ORCID logo, Rahim Khodayari-Zarnaq 2,3* ORCID logo

1 Department of Health Services Management, School of Health Management and Information Sciences, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
2 Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Management and Medical Informatics, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran
3 Tabriz Health Services Management Research Center, Health Management and Safety Promotion Research Institute, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran
*Corresponding Authors: Email: shabnamghasemyani@gmail.com; Email: rahimzarnagh@gmail.com

Abstract

Background and Objectives

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, political elites in Iran have tried to use social media to express their views, influence public opinion or criticize the government's performance in managing Covid-19 disease. The aim of this study was to investigate and analyze the tweets related to this Pandemic that were tweeted by Iranian political elites.

Material and Methods

This qualitative study is conducted based on the method of content analysis. A list of political elites likely to run for presidency in 1400 presidential election was selected by referring to public and specialized political news websites, their Twitter accounts were identified and all their Persian and English tweets about COVID-19 until the end of 2020 were collected and reviewed. Content analysis method was used for analyzing the tweets.

Results

More than 2,800 tweets from 27 political elites were reviewed. About 18% of the total tweets during this period were related to health and about 84% of the health tweets had COVID-19 content. All tweets related to COVID-19 were categorized under six main themes; notices; policy recommendation; criticism of government performance; situation analysis and future forecasting; warnings and Macroeconomic, social and political issues.

Conclusion

In recent years, the use of Twitter among Iran's political elites has increased significantly. It seems that the tweets of the political elites can influence the public’s views and behaviors as well as the government performance in a major way, leading the government to be more accountable in responsible management of the COVID-19 pandemic. The health system can also make more use of the social network's capacity to inform programs, attract support and disseminate health and prevention perspectives

Extended Abstract

Background and Objectives

In the field of health care, the views of political elites greatly influence the opinions of citizens and their health-related behaviors. Political leaders can use their influence on public opinion to address public health issues by disseminating evidence-based public health information. Social networks like Twitter play an important role in enabling people to stay in touch even in times of crisis. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, political elites in Iran have tried to use social media to express their views or influence public opinion or criticize the government's performance in managing COVID-19 disease. This study aims to investigate and analyze the Iranian political elites’ tweets related to this pandemic.

Material and Methods

This qualitative study is conducted based on the method of content analysis. According to public and specialized political news websites, we made a list of political elites who were likely to run for presidency in 1400 presidential election. The research population of this list was finalized, and all members of the research population were surveyed. The Twitter accounts of these people were identified and all the main tweets of these people -both in Persian and English about COVID-19 were collected and reviewed, starting from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019 to the end of 2020. The names and positions of individuals, the number of followers, the number of health and COVID-19-related tweets, and finally the content of COVID19-related tweets were collected in tables. Content analysis method was used to theme and analyze tweets. Because all data (tweets) were retrieved from the open-access public domain, no ethical approval was required.

Results

More than 2,800 tweets from 27 political elites were reviewed. About 18% of all the tweets during this period were related to health and about 84% of the health tweets had COVID-19 content. All tweets related to COVID-19 were categorized under six main themes; Notices; Policy recommendations; Criticism of government performance; Status analysis and future forecasting; Warning; and macroeconomic, social, and political issues. The main topics of information included sub-topics of morbidity and mortality trends, production or purchase of vaccines, planning of national and local actions, status or sacrifice of medical staff, preparation and distribution of masks and other protective equipment, disease status in other countries, job closures, the economic, social and psychological damage caused by the covid-19 outbreak. Policy recommendations also included support for medical staff, prioritization of health to the economy, distribution of protection or vaccination equipment, self-care and attention to health advice, temporary closure of infected cities and areas, development of virtual communications and new business platforms, international cooperation and regional, avoidance of unnecessary travel, cooperation between government agencies, people's livelihood and the improvement of monitoring systems.Criticism of the government's performance, excessive inconsistency in decision-making and information, inadequate distribution of protective equipment, absence of the president in the parliament, hasty and contradictory comments, preference of the economy over public health, internal and inter-sectoral inconsistencies, indecision in decision-making, Lack of use of successful internal and external experiences in dealing with the disease and impossibility of social and physical distance in public places were classified. Situation analysis and forecasting also include the doubling of economic problems along with the COVID-19 outbreak, the lack of impact of restrictions on traffic reduction, resilience to crisis due to previous experiences, and the synergy of military devices and facilities for the present and the future.We also categorized other sub-themes, including aggravation of poverty and economic and social harms, reduction of observance of health protocols, congestion and gatherings, trips and excessive presence of travelers in tourist areas, failure of health system, security, political and religious issues and profiteering and abuses. Finally, the themes of macroeconomic, social, and political issues included themes such as political sanctions, assistance to families affected by the corona, the impact of the corona on sustainable development, and new lifestyles in the corona and post-COVID-19 eras.

Conclusion

In recent years, the use of Twitter among Iranian political elites has increased significantly. It seems that political elites tweets can have a dramatic effect on the attitudes and behaviors of the people or obliging the government to be more accountable and do better in the management of COVID -19 pandemic. The health system can also make more use of the social network's capacity to inform programs, attract support and disseminate health and prevention perspectives.

Practical Implications of Research

The present study helps to create a more comprehensive analysis of the views of political elites, and familiarizes us with their thoughts and attitudes on current issues of the health system and even the extent of their attention to health. This study helps health researchers and analysts while designing a reliable source for the analysis of attitude of officials and political elites, we might, in so doing , provide a basis for them on which to design and implement similar studies. This study helps health researchers and analysts to design and implement similar studies while obtaining a reliable source for their analysis of the attitudes of officials and political elites. This research is the first study of its kind in the Iran that can affect future studies in this regard.

Ethical Considerations

This study was conducted using public data on the Internet and does not require ethical approval due to public and open access to the data used. The names of the people and their tweets are openly available to the public.

Conflict of Interest

There is no conflict of interest in this study.

Aknowledgment

None declared.

Keywords: Tweeter, COVID -19, Iran, Political elite, Epidemic, health policies
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Submitted: 22 May 2021
Revision: 17 Jun 2021
Accepted: 07 Jul 2021
ePublished: 03 Nov 2021
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