Twitter opinion analysis shows change in sentiment following ‘Tea Party Tuesday’

September 24, 2010

Our analysis of political opinions expressed by Twitter users shows that the ‘enthusiasm gap’ that previously favored the GOP over the Democratic Party seems to have evened out recently.

Our last analysis of the Twitter sentiment data provided by market research firm Crimson Hexagon indicated that while there were similar numbers of tweets criticizing both political parties, there were many more pro-GOP tweets posted on the social networking service than pro-Democratic ones – a result in line with what some saw as a lack of enthusiasm among Democratic voters as the midterms approached.

Since that analysis there have been two changes in the trends we’ve been seeing. The first was a divergence in the “anti” numbers with anti-Democratic sentiment far outweighing anti-GOP. This trend was most pronounced in late August – a period that coincided with the controversy surrounding the planned cultural center and mosque near the Ground Zero site in downtown Manhattan.

While anti numbers diverged during this period, the pro-party tweets held to largely the same pattern they had previously, with pro-GOP tweets outnumbering pro-Democratic ones. You can see all of these trends in the chart below.

0923_large

In recent days though there’s been a change in the look of the graph. As the mosque story faded in prominence the anti numbers seem to have returned to their previous parity – with both sides trading the lead back and forth.

There’s been a major change in the pro-party sentiments however. The number of pro-Democratic tweets has risen enough to erase the gap between the parties. If these results hold they would mark the the dissipation of the enthusiasm gap we saw previously.

The beginning of this change in the graph is heralded by a spike in pro-Democratic tweets on Sep. 15th. This date also marked a dramatic surge in political tweets in general, with Crimson Hexagon reporting over 67,000 politics-related tweets on that day compared to a daily average of about 21,000 the week before.

Interestingly the 15th was the day following “Tea Party” candidate Christine O’Donnell’s defeat of establishment candidate Michael Castle in Delaware’s Republican Senate primary. O’Donnell’s victory, one of several by Tea Party upstarts in recent Republican primaries, was seen by many as marking the rise to prominence of the Tea Party movement within the Republican party.

The rise of the Tea Party has led to Democratic arguments that the GOP has been taken over by extremists, giving them hope moderates and independent voters who are sour on Democrats will not find Republicans to be a suitable alternative in November.

The increase in pro-Democratic tweets since O’Donnell’s election could suggest that the rise of the conservative Tea Party has riled up the previously apathetic Democratic base, leading them to express a renewed faith in their own party.

Whatever the reason, an average of results since O’Donnell’s win shows that the rise in pro-Democratic tweets has evened out the sentiment numbers, with tweets leaning to each side numbering 50 percent of the total.

sep15-22_avg

We’ll keep our eye out and let you know how things develop.

4 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Incredible to think of the poverty of mind suggested in the statistic that a full 50% of the population is not completely disenchanted with a party that elects a candidate whose platform is the subject of masturbation(this from the folks who bleat on about smaller government,)and who publicly states that the term czar proves that Obama’s allegedly “socialist regime,”is promoting a European style nobility.The “grass roots,”movement, which can’t wait to install the fox to guard their henhouse.It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so unbelievably appalling.

Posted by jongbloet | Report as abusive

Frank, pHenry sentimental memories of the Grand Old Party. The “Party” is not over, but the supposed takeover of government will be dipped in hot water. And your “Anti-Dem/GOP” numbers scream minority rule. So drop the cubby hole of affiliation and say 60% of us are stalemated bulls. Independancy sits polarized by deep idealogical camps, so we wallow in self-pity and watch our democracy filibuster away. Who’ll stop the rein?

Posted by pHenry | Report as abusive

It would be fun to see similar graphs tracking the enthusiasm of fans re: entertainers, sports teams, fashion fads, or trendy gizmos.

Posted by 5tudentT | Report as abusive

This is basically useless info. There is no demo, likely voter or registered voter criteria. I could get as accurate information just by sticking my finger into the wind.

Posted by HankR | Report as abusive