Twitter opinion analysis shows even split between parties
Social media hasn’t been around long enough for pundits to determine how accurately it reflects the mood of a nation, but Democrats grasping for positive news might take hope from a shift in the tone on Twitter.
Our analysis of some 1.6 million tweets since August, using sentiment analysis software from market research firm Crimson Hexagon, shows a more favorable trend for President Obama’s party in recent weeks.
When we first examined online sentiment back in the summer, we found considerably less enthusiasm among Twitter users for the Democrats than for the Republicans.
In mid-September, however, there was a shift, with the number of pro-Democratic tweets rising to meet the pro-GOP numbers and eventually surpassing them. This dynamic has held relatively stable for the last month as you can see from this graph:
This movement is a continuation of the trend we noticed in mid-September. Pro-Democratic numbers began to pick up then amid the rise in the profile of the conservative Tea Party movement within the Republican party.
There has been an interesting move in negative sentiment as well since late September – the 23rd to be exact. That day saw a spike in anti-Republican tweets, many of which were potshots taken by GOP opponents at the party’s “Pledge to America,” which was officially unveiled that day.
While the pledge may have been a target for some Twitter users, negative sentiment towards the GOP fell in the days that followed. Within a week, the number of negative tweets about the GOP fell below the level of Democratic negatives. They’ve remained there for nearly all of the last month, as you can see from this chart (the anti-GOP tweets are the blue line):
Could the “Pledge” also have been responsible for the drop-off in negatives? It’s possible of course, but Reuters/Ipsos polling hasn’t found the manifesto to be a large factor in the race. Interestingly, Sept. 23 was also the day that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that there would be no vote on extending the Bush-era tax cuts before the election. Delaying that vote may have helped Republicans avoid criticism in a way, because they did not have to follow through on a vow to block legislation that would extend only middle-class tax cuts, in order to fight to preserve tax cuts for those with higher incomes. Perhaps a combination of both of these developments was enough to silence at least a portion of Republican critics.
So according to these numbers, the Democratic party is arousing more sentiment in the Twittersphere – both good and bad. But how does this all add up? As you can see from the graph below, the total GOP-leaning tweets (anti-Dem, pro-GOP) compared with Democratic-leaning ones, (anti-GOP, pro-Dem) gives an almost perfect split down the middle.
Of course this analysis doesn’t account for individual races across the country, but it does paint a different picture to the widely reported “enthusiasm gap” that has dogged the Democrats.