Tales from the Trail

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.

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

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.

Twitter opinion analysis shows midterm ‘enthusiasm gap’

In order to gauge the mood of voters as the midterms approach, Reuters has joined with market research company Crimson Hexagon to conduct a detailed assessment of the political mood as expressed by Twitter users. As a first step in this process we’re taking a look at the feeling expressed by Twitter users toward the Democratic and Republican parties in general.

This analysis is similar to one we conducted during the British general election earlier this year that showed changes in Twitter sentiment immediately following television debates and candidate gaffes that were echoed in opinion polls conducted days after the events.

In life, it often seems that people are more likely to speak up with criticism rather than praise. Our numbers show this is true on Twitter as well, with negative tweets about parties more common than positive ones. As you can see from the graph below, over the last nine days, roughly similar numbers of Twitter users have had something bad to say about both political parties: