Study: Twittersphere is a liberal, myopic, negative place

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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The conversation on Twitter surrounding major political events might not be remotely indicative of larger public opinion, a new study suggests.

The conclusions of a year-long study by the Pew Research Center, published Monday, found that reactions on Twitter to eight major news events and policy decisions often ran contrary to surveyed public opinion. Reactions on the social network to the events analyzed — which included the outcome of the presidential election, the first presidential debate and several major speeches by President Barack Obama —  also generally trended more liberal, or pro-Democratic, than did public opinion. 

Pew writes that the disparity “is partly a reflection of the fact that those who get news on Twitter – and particularly those who tweet news – are very different demographically from the public.”

The think tank, which noted that Twitter is used by 13 percent of adults, found in a September 2012 study that only 3 percent of the general public gets its news from Twitter.

Twitter users are also younger than the general public, and often lean Democratic. Half of adult Twitter users who post news to the site also indicated that they were younger than 30 years old, “compared with 23% of all adults.”

Also, Twitter allows users younger than the 18 years old to participate in conversations, while traditional surveys generally poll adults over the age of 18.

The conversation is not permanently biased in a heavily Democratic or liberal direction, though.

For example, Twitter users had a more neutral reaction to President Obama’s second inaugural address in January (65 percent) compared to the general public’s positive reaction (48 percent).

The overall sentiment on Twitter towards both political candidates, however, was largely negative.

“Still, the overall negativity on Twitter over the course of the campaign stood out,” said Pew.

“For both candidates, negative comments exceeded positive comments by a wide margin throughout the fall campaign season,” added the think tank. “But from September through November, Romney was consistently the target of more negative reactions than was Obama.”

Pew said that it used traditional research, as well as social media analysis by social media analytics firm Crimson Hexagon, to analyze “all publicly available Tweets” around the events, “but none included more than three days worth of reaction.”

Pew said Crimson Hexagon’s analysis was found to be more than 90 percent reliable, with Crimson Hexagon saying on its site that its analysis has a +/- 3 percent margin of error.

Twitter did not respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment by the time of publication.

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