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Influencers on Economic Issues in Latin America, Spain and the United States About the Series

Authors:
Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics,
Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise
Studies in Applied Economics
INFLUENCERS ON ECONOMIC
ISSUES IN LATIN AMERICA, SPAIN
AND THE UNITED STATES
SAE./No.175/March 2021
Carlos Newland, Juan Carlos Rosiello, and Roberto Salinas
1
Influencers on Economic Issues in Latin America, Spain and the United States
By Carlos Newland, Juan Carlos Rosiello and Roberto Salinas
About the Series
The Studies in Applied Economics series is under the general direction of Professor Steve H.
Hanke, Founder and Co-Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global
Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise (hanke@jhu.edu).
About the Authors
Carlos Newland is Licenciado en Economía (UCA); Master of Letters in Modern History (Oxford),
Dr. Litt. In History (Leiden). He teaches economic history at the Universitario ESEADE, UCEMA
and UTDT. Lambe Fellow (1990); Fortabat Fellow at Harvard (1999); Guggenheim Fellow
(2000).
Juan Carlos E. Rosiello is Contador Público and Licenciado en Administración de Empresas
(UADE); Especialista en Organizaciones sin fines de lucro (Universidad de San Andrés); Doctor
en Economía (ESEADE). He is a professor of economics and finance at ESEADE, UCEMA, Siglo
XXI, UNSTA and UNDEF Universities. He is the author of books on Finance and Financial
Calculation.
Roberto Salinas-León is Executive Director of the Center for Latin America of Atlas Network. He
holds a B.A. in Political Economy, History, and Philosophy from Hillsdale College and a Ph.D. in
Philosophy from Purdue University. He has been an Adjunct Professor and Visiting Professor of
Political Economy at the Escuela Libre de Derecho, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
and the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de xico in Mexico City, as well as Francisco
Marroquín University in Guatemala.
Abstract
The technological progress in our modern societies has witnessed the emergence of persons
who deploy different means of communication across social networks, seeking to generate an
impact among their audiences. These efforts in social media communications attempt to alter
consumption preferences and patterns, political choices, as well as reinforce or modify opinions
of all sorts and stripes. Individuals who attain greater relevance due to effects they trigger on
third parties are characterized as influencers, and one of their preferred means of
communication are online platforms or social media. Among them, Twitter stands out as the
2
most conducive space for debates on ideas, political parties, or public policies. This social media
platform is a microblogging service that allows a person to send short messages (up to 280
characters) that are displayed on a user’s individual page, and that are replicated on their
followers’ pages.
In this paper, we aim to identify the most important influencers in Latin America, the United
States and Spain, who use this social media network to debate issues primarily related to
economics and economic policy. On this subject, there is a very strong discussion about the role
that the government should play in economic life, the pros and cons of greater regulation, the
problem of income distribution, the impact of inflation, and the nature of free markets and
capitalism. We will first describe the methodology we employed, in order to then proceed to
illustrate a ranking of the ten most relevant influencers, in terms of number of followers, from
Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Spain, and the United States. We then explore their
profiles and present an analysis of the economic issues debated on the relevant Twitter
accounts on a per country basis. Finally, based on this analysis, we present a hypothesis on the
positioning of influencers in economic matters.
Acknowledgements
We are especially grateful for the collaboration of David Gallegos Rubio in the collection and
processing of the information presented here. Lionel Barbagallo actively participated in the
preparation of the first phase of this work. We also received technical help by Juan Pablo
Rosiello and received useful comments by Leoidas Zelmanovitz.
This paper has been developed via a research grant from Atlas Network. The project also
received support from the Federico Zorraquín Fund administrated by Eseade University
Institute.
3
Introduction
To begin, it is necessary to explain the role that an influencer plays on Twitter. From a certain
position of authority, reputation or credibility, an influencer posts various messages to her/his
followers (tweets) that can include a short paragraph, an image, a link to a piece of writing (a
newspaper article, a paper, or a blog post), an invitation to an event (a conference or seminar), a
link to a video, or to a statistical table. This communication seeks to disseminate certain
information generated by the user, or by third parties, and invites the audience to read, debate,
refute or share it. This is usually accompanied by arguments for or against a certain perspective,
often laden with passion. The reach of influencers actions is usually measured by the number of
followers they have; although, it is also important to consider the reactions generated by their
messages. The receiver can indicate by marking "favorite" that (s)he approves of the content, and
can make a public comment about it, as well as forwarding or “re-tweeting” the same content to
her/his own followers. In the latter case, the impact of the message is multiplied, since these, in
turn, can be repeatedly retweeted by the followers of their followers, and so on.
We aim to identify the ten main economic influencers in each country, classified according to the
number of followers. Additionally, the ranking of these same users is perfected by weighing the
impact of their publications. Once the influencers have been identified, we will seek to determine
their positioning, classifying them as in favor of open markets (+Market) or in favor of greater
state intervention (+State), based on the opinions expressed in their Twitter posts and
publications.
Methodology
For an initial detection of the main influencers, a data mining technique was applied using a
Python programming code that, through the Tweepy module, allows access to the Twitter API
(Application Programing Interface). Using the Streaming function, it was possible to collect
tweets in real time (tweets created after the program was launched), as long as they complied
with the filters indicated in the code. In our case, the code filtered the tweets based on the
specified keywords that can be selected and entered in the programming code.
To run this program, two key words were selected: "capitalism" and "economy", under the
criterion that they would enable the identification of users whose conversations were related to
economic issues, regardless of their ideological orientation. Additionally, the code was
programmed to count and rank the selected users based on the amount of mentions they had,
where the definition of “mentions” in the selected code also incorporated the accumulation of
retweets and responses to the original tweets that contained either or both selected words. The
code was run for a week (October 4-11, 2020) in order to collect a sufficient number of tweets,
and this first step resulted in an extensive list of users who, in their tweets, used any of the two
words or both.
4
From this first list, users were classified by country, and within each country by the number of
followers. This last datum was obtained directly from each user’s personal account. Then, we
eliminated users who, based on an analysis of their tweets, did not reveal a profile focused on
economic issues.
An additional process of verification required to expand the base sample consisted of a search of
possible economic influencers that had not been identified in the previous procedure. This
undertaking was performed in various ways, namely:
a) An internet search of the most influential or most active economists in social media in each
country.
b) Verifying the user recommendations made by Twitter based on the analysis of each of the
previously selected users.
c) Verifying user accounts that are retweeted or tweet-mentioned with the symbol @ by the same
previously selected users.
This procedure was very useful in completing the registry, since several relevant users were
detected that did not appear in the original list.
The new resulting list was, as expected, a set of users whose main interest and/or profession is in
economics, classified by country and ranked by number of followers
1
. Then, to obtain a better
overview their profiles, the following data was collected: profession, age, number of followers,
average retweets, average daily tweets, and average number of favorites for each posted tweet.
To obtain the average number of retweets and the average number of favorites for each posted
tweet, we again deployed the Twitter API with a Python code that allows for quantification of all
these actions, as well as repercussions of a user in a given period of time. By averaging the
values obtained by number of days analyzed, the values used were thereby determined.
It is worth noting that in the case of the United States, the aforementioned selection criteria was
not followed. Instead, the list of influencers was provided on the basis of findings in the
FocusEconomics site. However, our ranking was also edited following the criterion that a
significant number of posted tweets covered economic topics
2
.
1
There are many other influencers on social issues with a large number of followers in the countries analyzed, but
who do not deal principally with economic issues. One can mention among them Sergio Sarmiento in Mexico or
Sergio Fajardo in Colombia.
2
FocusEconomics. Top Economics Influencers to Follow. https://www.focus-economics.com/blog/top-economics-
influencers-to-follow. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
5
The reach and ranking of influencers
If the sum of the followers of the ten main influencers per country is calculated and contrasted
with their respective population, a measure of the relative importance of the economic debate in
each country on Twitter can then be obtained. In comparative terms, the greatest intensity is
presented by Colombia. If we assign a value of 100 (per capita) to this country, the results that
follow are: Argentina (65), Chile and Spain (50). Of lower intensity are Brazil, Mexico and the
United States, with values below 20. These intensities are not related to the frequency of use of
Twitter in general in each country, but rather reflect the idiosyncrasies of the channel specifically
dedicated to the issues considered herein.
Table A.- Ranking of influencers by number of followers (as of January 2021)
NAME
COUNTRY
Followers
(thousands)
Ranking
by
followers
Mexico
276
22
Spain
256
23
Paul
Krugman
United States
4600
1
Spain
234
24
Gustavo Petro
Colombia
4024
2
Argentina
229
25
Ricardo
Amorín
Brazil
1400
3
Argentina
215
26
Alberto
Garzon
Spain
1144
4
United States
207
27
Martín
Lusteau
Argentina
1100
5
México
206
28
Óscar Iván
Zuluaga
Colombia
805
6
Alfonso Prat
Gay
Argentina
588
7
Spain
204
29
Rodrigo
Constantino
Brazil
563
8
Mexico
202
30
Nouriel
Roubini
United States
512
9
Mexico
196
31
Xavier Sala-i-
Martin
Spain
505
10
United States
189
33
José Luis
Espert
Argentina
486
11
Argentina
189
32
José Amoedo
Brazil
461
12
Argentina
188
34
Andrés
Velasco
Chile
451
13
Argentina
186
35
Javier Milei
Argentina
397.5
14
United States
183
36
Clara López
Obregón
Colombia
367
15
Brazil
181
37
Ernesto
Samper P.
Colombia
367
16
Brazil
179
38
Ricardo
Lagos
Chile
365
17
Mexico
178
39
Alejandro
Bercovich
Argentina
347
18
Chile
174
40
Joseph
Stiglitz
United States
339
19
United States
174
41
Steve Hanke
United States
314
20
United States
162
42
Mauricio
Cárdenas
Colombia
306
21
United States
162
43
6
Gerardo
Esquivel
Mexico
156
44
Chile
76
58
Oscar Mario
Beteta
Mexico
134
45
Spain
75
60
Carlos
Rodríguez
Braun
Spain
120
46
Chile
75
59
María del
Rosario
Guerra
Colombia
117
47
Chile
75
61
Colombia
72
62
Valeria Moy
Mexico
112
48
Brazil
71
63
Henrique
Meirelles
Brazil
110
49
Salim Mattar
Brazil
108
50
Mexico
65
64
Felipe Larraín
Chile
108
51
Chile
58
65
Jose Carlos
Diez
Spain
102
52
Colombia
48
66
Cecilia Lopez
Montaño
Colombia
96.079
53
Spain
46
67
Isaac Katz
Mexico
89
54
Colombia
40
68
Luis Garicano
Spain
84
55
Chile
36
69
Raphael Lima
Brazil
82
56
Chile
32
70
Alexandre
Schwartsman
Brazil
82
57
A second ranking, which is shown in Table B, orders the influencers based on an index that
considers not merely the number of followers, but also the relative impact of generated tweets
(retweets and favorites obtained). This indicator, whose components have been normalized to
return values between zero and one, is weighted with a weight of 50% by the number of
followers, 25% by the number of retweets and 25% by the number of average favorites obtained
by the user for each original tweet. It is interesting to contrast both rankings. One finding that
stands out is that some influencers have large followings, but relatively little impact (as here
defined). On the other hand, there are influencers who have a more limited direct audience, but
who generate a lot of reaction since their messages are both approved retweeted in very high
numbers.
From the analysis of the rankings, it is clear that the most prominent influencers in the whole
sample are Gustavo Petro (Colombia) and Paul Krugman (United States), with more than four
million followers each. Both present economic views that emphasize greater state intervention.
They are followed by the two influencers with economic positions consistent with free and open
markets: Rodrigo Constantino from Brazil, and Manuel Adorni from Argentina.
7
Table B.-Ranking of influencers by weighted index
NAME
COUNTRY
Ranking by
weighted index
Justin Wolfers
United States
36
Henrique Meirelles
Brazil
37
Gustavo Petro
Colombia
1
Sergio Negrete
Cárdenas
Mexico
38
Paul Krugman
Argentina
2
Rodrigo Constantino
Brazil
3
Larry Summers
United States
39
Manuel Adorni
Argentina
4
Cárdenas, Mauricio
Colombia
40
Martin Guzmán
Argentina
5
Enrique Quintana
Mexico
41
Alberto Garzón
Spain
6
Guillermo Barba
Mexico
42
Alfonso Prat Gay
Argentina
7
Macario Schettino
Mexico
43
Ricardo Amorín
Brazil
8
Raphael Lima
Brazil
44
Óscar Iván Zuluaga
Colombia
9
Isaac Katz
Mexico
45
Miguel Gómez
Martínez
Colombia
10
Martín Tetaz
Argentina
46
Dani Rodrik
United States
47
Martin Lusteau
Argentina
11
Richard Thaler
United States
48
Xavier Sala-i-Martin
Spain
12
Luis Pazos
Mexico
49
José Luis Espert
Argentina
13
Cecilia López
Montaño
Colombia
50
Salim Mattar
Brazil
14
Axel Kaiser
Chile
15
Felipe Larraín
Chile
51
Ricardo Lagos
Chile
16
José Ramón Valente
Chile
52
Andrés Velasco
Chile
17
Tyler Cowen
United States
53
José Amoedo
Brazil
18
Ertik Brynjolfsson
United States
54
Juan Ramón Rallo
Spain
19
José Piñera
Chile
55
Joseph Stiglitz
United States
20
Alfredo Sfeir Younis
Chile
56
Martin Redrado
Argentina
57
Daniel Lacalle
Spain
21
María del Rosario
Guerra
Colombia
58
Alejandro Bercovich
Argentina
22
Henrique Bredda
Brazil
23
Pedro Fernando Nery
Brazil
59
Milei, Javier
Argentina
24
Alexandre
Schwartsman
Brazil
60
Ernesto Samper P.
Colombia
25
Iván Marulanda
Colombia
61
Cristián Larroulet
Vignau
Chile
26
José Carlos Diez
Spain
62
Steve Hanke
United States
27
Oscar Mario Beteta
Mexico
63
Laura Carvalho
Brazil
28
Marcel Claude
Chile
64
Nouriel Roubini
United States
29
Carlos Rodríguez
Braun
Spain
65
Gerardo Esquivel
Mexico
30
Eduardo Garzón
Spain
66
Santiago Niño-Becerra
Spain
31
Luis Garicano
Spain
67
Valeria Moy
Mexico
32
Gonzalo Bernardos
Spain
68
Clara López Obregón
Colombia
33
Luis Larraín Arroyo
Chile
69
Roberto Cachanosky
Argentina
34
Andrés Villamizar
Colombia
70
Eduardo Ruíz Healy
Mexico
35
8
The influencers profile
The research undertaken made it possible to detect some general characteristics of the profile of
the influencers across the universe of countries analyzed.
The first finding that stands out is that the vast majority of influencers are men, since out of the
total 70 influencers analyzed, only four are women (and three of them from Colombia). A similar
situation prevails among economics professors from countries like the United States and for
authors of the most recognized economics blogs
3
.
The second notable finding that differs from tweeters in general is that economic influencers are
from older generations, with an average age of 58 years old.
Their origin or profession is diverse. Many pursued (or pursue) academic activities (as in the
United States, Mexico or Chile), or have emerged from business or consulting fields (common in
Brazil). In other cases, they have developed a political career or acted in government (the list
presented here includes two former presidents). Although many influencers occasionally write
for newspapers, it is curious highlight the low number of influencers that come from full-time
business or economics media journalists. For the sample analyzed here, our set of influencers
have an average of 300,000 followers; and, in general, they post 5 to 10 original tweets per day,
with an average of half a million approvals and 100,000 retweets.
In what follows, we analyze some characteristics of Twitter influencers from the countries
analyzed.
Influencers in the United States have a high average age of 65. What stands out most about this
case is that they come entirely from the university environment, where they have stood out for
their contributions to economic science. Three of them have received the Nobel Prize in
Economics: Paul Krugman (2008), Joseph Stiglitz (2001) and Richard Thaler (2017). Many of
them have participated as advisers in Democrat administrations. Stiglitz, Larry Summers and
Nouriel Roubini were members of The Council of Economic Advisers. Also, Summers held the
top executive position in the entire group, as he was Clinton's Secretary of Treasury. Others have
been op-ed columnists for major media outlets, such as Krugman, Justin Wolfers, and Tyler
Cowen at the New York Times; Steve Hanke, in the past, was active in Forbes. All of these
influencers have written several works on economic topics, from university textbooks to
advanced contributions in journals and collection of essays, to texts for the general public
4
.
Those with a more academic focus include Erik Brynjolfsson, Cowen, Dani Rodrik and Thaler.
3
Matthew E. Kahn March 26, 2011 Where are the female economics bloggers? The Christian Science Monitor
(blog), https://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Green-Economics/2011/0326/Where-are-the-female-economics-
bloggers.
4
A Pew study found that in the United States, Twitter users sympathetic to the Democratic Party broadcast 70% of
tweets. See https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2020/10/15/differences-in-how-democrats-and-republicans-
behave-on-twitter/
9
The majority of these influencers advance a perspective critical of the free market point of view,
of the lack of government and regulatory interventionism, and Republicans in general. Only two,
Hanke and Cowen, can be considered straightforward defenders of capitalism; while two others,
Thaler and Brynjolfsson, are indeterminate.
In Spain, the average age of influencers is 52. Half of them have obtained a doctorate: Xavier
Sala-i-Martin, Luis Garciano, Gonzalo Bernardos, Juan Ramón Rallo and Carlos Rodríguez
Braun. Alberto Garzón stands out as a tweeter, who, in addition to being the one with the most
followers (more than one million), is also the one that generates the greatest impact. Some
influencers on the list are involved in politics: Garzón as minister, and Garciano in the European
legislature. Others have held managerial positions, or chaired business organizations, such as
Daniel Lacalle and Santiago Niño Becerra. And others are or have been consultants or advisers,
such as Sala-i-Martin and Lacalle.
Influencers in Brazil have an average age of 52 years. Many of them come from the business
world, such as Jose Amoedo, Salim Mattar, Henrique Bredda, Henrique Meirelles, Rodrigo
Constantino and Alexandre Schwartsman. Some of the influencers have been active in politics or
have held government positions, such as Amoedo, Mattar, Meirelles, and Laura Carvalho. Only
the latter appears strongly linked to the university. The influencer with the most followers is
Ricardo Amorim with 1.4 million. Amorín appears frequently on television, is also a prolific op-
ed columnist, and has his own business consulting firm dedicated to economic, financial and
strategic issues.
Mexican influencers have an average age of 59 years. All are characterized by being highly
recognized in national and international media outlets. Most of them have had experience as
consultants for international financial or economic organizations, and as university professors. At
the same time, they have held positions in the federal government, especially in areas such as
Finance, Economy, Foreign Trade or in the private sector, mainly in banking. They have
postgraduate studies at foreign universities: six of them have completed doctoral studies and four
have master's degrees. They have produced numerous books, research articles or opinion articles
on political, economic, and social issues in Mexico, and the world
5
.
In Argentina the average age of influencers is 50 years. All of them completed undergraduate
careers in the country and some of them did postgraduate studies (generally M.A.) abroad:
Alfonso Prat Gay, Martín Redrado and Martín Guzmán were trained in the United States, while
Martín Lousteau did so in Europe. Due to his activity on Twitter, Manuel Adorni stands out as
the influencer who receives most interactions on his account. Four of these influencers (Martín
Lousteau, Guzmán, Redrado and Prat Gay) have come to occupy public positions, as senators,
5
One of the Mexican influencers, Gerardo Esquivel, has been classified as having an indeterminate perspective,
given the content of the Twitter pages issued within the period considered here. Esquivel could be classified as
+State or “leftist” given his previous public appearances. These have been much more moderate in recent times,
most likely due to his current position as Under-Governor of de Banco de México.
10
congressmen, cabinet members or heads of the Central Bank. Although three of them (José Luis
Espert, Javier Milei and Roberto Cachanosky) have entered politics recently, their original
profession is that of economic consultants. The same applies to Adorni and to Martín Tetaz.
Among the influencers of Argentina, only Guzmán -current Minister of Economy- comes from a
strictly academic field.
Chilean influencers, with an average age of 64 years, have done most of their postgraduate
education in the United States. Four have received doctorates in economics (Andrés Velasco,
Ricardo Lagos, Felipe Larraín, José Piñera) and three have completed master's programs
(Cristian Larroulet, Alfredo Sfeir and José Valente). Two others have postgraduate degrees in
Europe: Axel Kaiser (Ph.D) and Marcel Claude (M.A.). This comparatively high level of
international training has led most to develop an active local and international university life.
Almost all of them have published extensively and have also served as consultants. Some have
been engaged in political activity and have held important government positions: Lagos has been
president of Chile, while Velasco, Larraín, Larroulet, Piñera and Valente have held Ministry
positions across various administrations.
In Colombia, influencers have an average age of 64 years. Some of them have completed their
postgraduate degrees at European universities, such as Petro and Oscar Zuluaga, while Mauricio
Cárdenas, Andrés Villamizar and María del Rosario Guerra have obtained doctorates or master's
degrees from universities in the United States. Clara Obregón, in turn, studied at Harvard
University. Petro stands out prominently as a twitter influencer, with the largest number of
followers -four million- in Latin America. Apart from having held political positions, Petro was
also a guerrilla member
6
. All Colombian influencers have participated in politics, and most have
held high positions, as senators, mayors, and cabinet positions. Many of them have held
managerial positions or chaired business organizations, such as Zuluaga, Iván Marulanda and
Miguel Gómez Martínez. Thise who have developed a university career include Samper (who
was President of Colombia), Cárdenas, Guerra and Gómez Martínez.
Identification of the economic orientation of influencers
Our analysis of the messages on Twitter yields some surprising results. In the community of
economic influencers, where many belong to the academic world, the nature of debate in not
cold and calculating, based solely on empirical or scientific evidence. Rather, it resembles
discussions based on pre-established positions. Hence, interactions on Twitter do not seem to
promote, in general, an open exchange of ideas, but rather a re-affirmation of pre-conceived
positions. A clear example of this is Paul Krugman, who began his journey as a recognized
academic researcher, making important contributions to economic theory. But, as his
participation in social media began to grow, he gradually mutated into a preacher of very partisan
6
His heterogeneous background makes him difficult to compare to the other influencers.
11
perspectives, with positions systematically opposed to the Republican Party
7
. A very similar case
is that of Stiglitz, also a Nobel Prize winner and with distinguished recognition as university
professor, who now defends highly heterodox causes, including policies of the illiberal
populist governments of Venezuela and Argentina
8
. The theoretical positioning of the main
influencers on economic issues is highly polarized, which becomes evident when the issues
under debate are scrutinized. To facilitate our analysis (and begging any questions) we have
chosen to distinguish the opposite points of view as simply "in favor of open markets" (+Market)
versus “in favor of greater State intervention” (+State)
9
.
Based on the analysis of the content published in the tweets of each influencer, the following list
was constructed with the ten most frequent economic topics on social media
10
. The topics are
arranged in such a way that the first five are related to a pro-free market perspective, while the
last five cover economic thinking more in favor of more state intervention.
1. Against: the increase in the size of the State, and its inefficiency, the increase in public
spending, the increase in fiscal deficits, the increase in public employment, the increase
in taxes.
2. Against: regulation in general, labor regulations, exchange rate regulations, lack of
competition and obstacles to the free market.
3. Criticism: to the left, socialism, populism in general and in Latin America.
4. In favor of liberalizing international trade.
5. Danger of inflation and unrestricted money supply expansions.
6. Criticizes inequality / in favor of income redistribution / needs to improve pension
payments.
7. In favor of limiting international trade.
8. Criticism of neoliberalpolicies and capitalism.
9. In favor of economic regulation, state intervention / against the free market.
7
The one-handed economist”, The Economist, December 13, 2003. See also Mallaby, Sebastian “Cool It,
Krugman. The self-sabotaging rage of the New York Times columnist”, The Atlantic January/February 2020 Issue.
8
Gene Epstein “Continually Mistaken, Chronically Admired. The work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph
Stiglitz is a study in elite myopia.” September 20, 2018. City Journal. https://www.city-journal.org/joseph-stiglitz-
venezuela-16181.html
9
Usually, statist influencers do not present a frontal rejection of capitalism, but rather continually mark the need
to substantially modify or “correct” its operation.
10
Given that a specific period was analyzed (December 2019), the results may be biased by particular topics that
were relevant at that time.
12
10. In favor of / greater size of the State / subsidies / social plans / public employment /
public spending / increase in taxes / public health / public education.
Based on this list, we analyzed the contents of around a hundred tweets from each influencer,
assigning the one of the above categories to each, where applicable
11
. We then obtained the
percentage values of each topic for each influencer. This procedure made it possible to obtain the
prevailing economic profile or perspective of each of the influencers under analysis.
Based on these results, influencers were categorized as described in Table C. To do this, we
proceeded as follows: for each influencer, the reported results correspond to the sum of the
percentages of the first five categories or economic topics. Those who obtained a score of 66.6%
or more were labeled as +Market, and those who obtained 33.3% or less, as +State. The
remaining middle segment were classified as Center.
11
In other words, tweets that did not deal with economic issues were not considered.
13
Table C. Economic perspective of influencers.
NAME
COUNTRY
Economic
Perspective
Justin Wolfers
United States
+ State
Henrique Meirelles
Brazil
+ Market
Gustavo Petro
Colombia
+ State
Sergio Negrete
Cárdenas
Mexico
+ Market
Paul Krugman
United States
+ State
Rodrigo Constantino
Brazil
+ Market
Larry Summers
United States
+ State
Manuel Adorni
Argentina
+ Market
Mauricio Cárdenas
Colombia
+ Market
Martín Guzmán
Argentina
+ State
Enrique Quintana
Mexico
+ Market
Alberto Garzón
Spain
+ State
Guillermo Barba
Mexico
+ Market
Alfonso Prat Gay, A
Argentina
+ Market
Macario Schettino
Mexico
+ Market
Ricardo Amorin
Brazil
+ Market
Raphael Lima
Brazil
+ Market
Óscar Iván Zuluaga
Colombia
+ State
Isaac Katz
Mexico
+ Market
Miguel Gómez
Martínez
Colombia
+ Market
Martín Tetaz
Argentina
+ Market
Dani Rodrik
United States
+ State
Martín Lusteau
Argentina
Center
Richard Thaler
United States
+ Market
Xavier Sala-i-Martin
Spain
+ Market
Luis Pazos
Mexico
+ Market
Espert, José Luis
Argentina
+ Market
Cecilia Lopez
Montaño
Colombia
+ State
Salim Mattar
Brazil
+ Market
Axel Kaiser
Chile
+ Market
Felipe Larraín
Chile
+ Market
Ricardo Lagos
Chile
+ State
José Ramón Valente
Chile
+ Market
Andrés Velasco
Chile
+ Market
Tyler Cowen
United States
+ Market
Jose Amoedo
Brazil
+ Market
Ertik Brynjolfsson
United States
Center
Juan Ramón Rallo
Spain
+ Market
José Piñera
Chile
+ Market
Joseph Stiglitz
United States
+ State
Alfredo Sfeir Younis
Chile
+ State
Martin Redrado
Argentina
+ Market
Daniel Lacalle
Spain
+ Market
María del Rosario
Guerra
Colombia
+ State
Alejandro Bercovich
Argentina
+ State
Henrique Bredda
Brazil
+ Market
Pedro Fernando Nery
Brazil
+ State
Javier Milei
Argentina
+ Market
Alexandre
Schwartsman
Brazil
+ Market
Ernesto Samper P.
Colombia
+ State
Iván Marulanda
Colombia
+ State
Cristián Larroulet
Vignau
Chile
+ Market
José Carlos Diez
Spain
+ Market
Steve Hanke
United States
+ Market
Oscar Mario Beteta
Mexico
+ Market
Laura Carvalho
Brazil
+ State
Marcel Claude
Chile
+ State
Nouriel Roubini
United States
+ State
Carlos Rodríguez
Braun
Spain
+ Market
Gerardo Esquivel
Mexico
Center
Eduardo Garzón
Spain
+ State
Santiago Niño-Becerra
Spain
+ State
Luis Garicano
Spain
+ Market
Valeria Moy
México
+ Market
Gonzalo Bernardos
Spain
+ State
Clara López Obregón
Colombia
+ State
Luis Larraín Arroyo
Chile
+ Market
Roberto Cachanosky
Argentina
+ Market
Andrés Villamizar
Colombia
+ Market
Eduardo Ruíz Healy
Mexico
+ Market
14
Then, for each of the selected topics, the percentage averages for each country was calculated.
This is shown in Table D.
Table D. Average distribution of the topics covered by the influencers (in percentage, each
influencer with the same weight).
Topic
ARGENTINA
COLOMBIA
SPAIN
BRAZIL
UNITED
STATES
CHILE
MEXICO
AVERAGE
Criticizes / state size / public spending /
fiscal deficit inefficiency / public
employment / tax increase
0,42
0,12
0,25
0,34
0,09
0,12
0,28
0,23
Criticism of regulation in general, labor
regulations, regulation exchange rate, lack
of competition and obstacles to the free
market
0,16
0,16
0,09
0,30
0,12
0,25
0,26
0,19
Criticizes / the left / socialism / populism
in general and of LATAM.
0,03
0,07
0,25
0,07
0,03
0,17
0,25
0,13
In favor of freeing international trade
0,01
0,00
0,00
0,03
0,08
0,18
0,09
0,06
Criticize Monetary Issuance and Inflation
0,12
0,00
0,06
0,03
0,04
0,00
0,07
0,05
Criticize Inequality / in favor of income
redistribution / Regional transfers
0,06
0,04
0,05
0,15
0,14
0,07
0,02
0,07
In favor of limiting international trade
0,03
0,02
0,01
0,00
0,02
0,02
0,01
0,01
Criticism of neoliberal policies, capitalism
and the right
0,02
0,07
0,05
0,02
0,03
0,05
0,00
0,03
In favor of economic regulation / State
intervention / against the free market
0,03
0,28
0,13
0,00
0,17
0,06
0,00
0,10
In favor / larger size State / subsidies /
social plans / public employment / public
spending / tax increase / public health /
public education
0,11
0,26
0,11
0,05
0,28
0,09
0,01
0,13
On average, we can immediately highlight that the topics dominating posted tweets are those that
criticize or propose a greater measure of government intervention and regulation in the economy.
The position of influencers against state intervention is greater in Argentina and Brazil. The
opposite occurs in Colombia and the United States. Other issues that appear with less importance
are views on the expansion of money supply and of inflation; although this topic, not
surprisingly, appears with much greater noticeability in Argentina, a nation that has endured the
largest increase in its price index throughout the region, only after Venezuela. Criticism of the
position favoring greater state intervention and economic populism is manifested prominently
(and relevantly) in Spain and Mexico; while in Brazil and the United States, the main topic of
discussion centers on the negative effect of an unequal income distribution. It is surprising that
issues related to global trade are not mentioned much, given its role as a driver of world growth.
The exceptions are Chile and Mexico, where mentions favorable to open trade are common.
The importance given to each subject by country is presented in Table D.
At the national level and in terms of a weighted average, Mexico stands out of the country with
the largest number of influencers in favor of the free market, with a score of 96 (out of 100). The
second place is occupied by Brazil with 79, followed by Argentina, with 75. Then comes Chile
with 72, and Spain with 65. On the other hand, countries far more oriented to a perspective in
favor of state intervention are the United States with 36 and Colombia with 34.
15
Table E shows the results by country, adding the first five categories on one side, and the last
five on the other.
Table E: Average distribution of the topics covered by the influencers (in percentage, each
influencer with the same weight)
Topics
ARGENTINA
CHILE
COLOMBIA
SPAIN
BRAZIL
MEXICO
UNITED
STATES
Criticizes / size of the State / public
spending / fiscal deficit / inefficiency /
public employment / tax increase
75.00%
72%
34%
65.18%
76.89%
96%
36.25%
Criticizes regulation in general, labor
regulations, regulation exchange rate,
lack of competition and obstacles to the
free market
Criticizes / the left / socialism / populism
in general and LATAM
In favor of freeing international trade
Criticizes Monetary Emission and
Inflation
Criticizes Inequality / in favor of income
redistribution / Coparticipation
25.00%
28%
65.62%
34.82%
23.11%
4.00%
63.75%
In favor of limiting international trade
Criticism of neoliberal policies,
capitalism and the right
In favor of economic regulation / State
intervention / increase of social plans /
against the free market
In favor of / larger size of the State /
subsidies / social plans / public
employment / public spending / tax
increase / public health /
Total
100.00%
100.00%
100.00%
100.00%
100.00%
100.00%
100.00%
Table F presents the same grouping of categories as in Table D, identified by their orientation
+Market / +State. In column I (influencer) the percentages of Table D are replicated, while in
column S (followers) each of the themes of each influencer is weighted by the number of his
followers, to then obtain the weighted averages by country. It is clear that in all countries -save
for Brazil and Mexico-, for the themes in favor of the open markets (+Market), column I is
greater than column S, which implies that the followers of themes in favor of greater intervention
are proportionally more numerous per influencer. The most extreme cases are the United States
and Colombia. This is very probably because these countries have super-influencers in favor of
greater state intervention, such as Krugman and Petro, which with their weighted input alone tips
the balance in the indicated direction.
16
Table F. Average distribution of topics by influencer (I) and by followers (S).
Topic
Argentina
Chile
Colombia
Spain
Brazil
Mexico
United States
I
S
I
S
I
S
I
S
I
S
I
S
I
S
+Market
0,75
0,69
0,72
0,67
0,34
0,09
0,65
0,52
0,77
0,92
0,96
0,98
0,36
0,12
+State
0,25
0,31
0,28
0,33
0,66
0,91
0,35
0,48
0,23
0,08
0,04
0,02
0,64
0,88
If all the influencers are grouped by their positioning in economic terms, we observe the
following percentages: +State 31% and +Market 59%, with the remaining 10% belonging to
Center. If the followers revealed the same economic positioning as their influencers, the pro-
market proportion would represent 37% of the total of followers, and with the anti-market or pro-
state group at 56%. In other words, pro-market influencers exist in greater numbers, but with a
smaller total number of followers.
The economic mindset or mentality of the universe of Twitter users can be compared to the same
economic mentality of the general population (per country), using the recently released GIEM
2020 - Global Index of Economic Mentality 2020
12
. In this index, of the countries analyzed in
this essay, the United States is the country that shows the greatest appreciation for a free market
economy, followed by Colombia. At the end, with low values, we find are Argentina and Chile.
It is surprising, therefore, that it is the former two countries that generate predominantly anti-
capitalistinfluencers, whereas we find an opposite situation with the latter.
Comparing the results obtained in this study and the Global Index of Economic Mentality, it
seems that there tends to be an inverse correlation between the economic positioning of the main
Twitter influencers in each country, and the prevailing economic mentality in that same country.
In turn, for each country, there appears to be a positive correlation between the intensity of its
positioning and the number of tweeters of the opposite viewpoint. This working hypothesis can
be a research project to be developed in the future.
12
The index was elaborated by a research team (Brad Lips, Carlos Newland and Pal Czegledi) under a project
funded by Atlas Network. See: https://www.atlasnetwork.org/news/article/a-new-global-index-to-measure-
economic-mentality
17
Conclusions
The analysis carried out in this work has made it possible to detect the influencers on the Twitter
platform that have the greatest impact on debates surrounding economic issues.
Some findings are:
1. The influencers on economic issues are mostly males of relatively older age. Their
main occupations include university teaching, having held government positions and
belonging to the private sector, such as members of business organizations, or
consultants.
2. At the national level, the United States and Colombia are dominated by influencers in
favor of greater state intervention. This is surprising given that the general population in
these countries is relatively favorable to a freer market mindset. In the rest of the
countries, which have populations with mentalities more oriented towards greater state
intervention, the influencers tend to be in favor of the free market.
3. The topics that generally dominate tweets are those related to the size of the State, and
economic regulation.
4. The rankings presented here are useful to highlight those influencers of greater weight,
who in their messages reflect the interests of a significant part of public opinion.
5. If influencers merely respond in their perspectives to their audiences, it could be
assumed that their social impact is zero. We do not believe that this is the case, since in
their activity influencers offer information, often presented as academic and scientific, in
favor of their positions. This evidence reinforces and strengthens existing prejudices and
provides new arguments to defend or disseminate a certain point of view. On the other
hand, influencers facilitate the organization and actions of people with similar
perspectives that can then be transformed into mass personal demonstrations on social
media, which will tend to affect the decisions of politicians, government agents and
social actors in general.
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