Twitter opinion analysis shows even split between parties

October 29, 2010

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.


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This is not only a very interesting presentation of recent Twittersphere data, but should give the more ideologically-inclined members of both parties considerable reason to pause and reflect. Apparently the election’s results won’t be the political equivalent of the Allies’ victory in World War II in that total “bomb-and-destroy” war for the Republicans — but neither does it give the Democrats any reason to suppose their fortunes aren’t going to go down markedly.

The Great Unwashed Middle has long been the ultimate key in American politics, This election appears set to confirm that to the nth degree. And both parties are going to have to stop looking down on those folks, particularly the independents among them.

Posted by MekhongKurt | Report as abusive

One point I’d like the article to address is the age demographic of the twitter users- is it primarily the younger tech-savy generation? Or is there a mix of age groups that use twitter?

Posted by ajmccy | Report as abusive

The NY Times published an article on this trend yesterday, but given the new-ness of the sentiment analyisis tools the politcal campaigns are using, gauging public opinion via Twitter is still a bit premature. Here’s the article, and a link to a blog explaining the accuracy of sentiment analysis tools: ng-social-media-to-gauge-political-suppo rt-and-trends/

Posted by NeeltakYot | Report as abusive