Twitter users' reactions to major political events and policy decisions contrasts sharply from public opinion in surveys, a year-long Pew Research Center study
The study compared the results of national polls to the tone of tweets in response to eight major news events, including the outcome of the presidential election, the first presidential debate, and major speeches by President Barack Obama.
Tweets were more liberal or more conservative than survey responses, and often it is the criticism that stands out.
According to Pew researchers, the disparity has to do with both the narrow sliver of the public represented on Twitter and who among that slice chooses to take part in the conversation.
Here Are Highlights From the Study:
Pew: GOP Enthusiasm for Presidential Race at All-Time High
Pew: 53% Feel Rights Threatened By US Government
- Twitter is more liberal in some events. When a federal court ruled last February that a California law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional – a case that is now coming before the Supreme Court – the reaction on Twitter was quite positive. Twitter conversations about the ruling were much more positive than negative (46 percent vs. 8 percent). But public opinion, as measured in a national poll, ran the other direction: Of those who had heard about the ruling, just 33 percent were very happy or pleased with it, while 44 percent were disappointed or angry.
Similarly, Twitter users tweeted very positively when President Barack Obama was re-elected; 77 percent of comments relating to his November victory were positive. However, a survey of voters in the days following the election found only 52 percent of respondents were happy about Obama’s win.
- Twitter Reactions Not Always More Liberal. Obama’s second inaugural address received more positive than negative assessments in a national survey conducted after the speech, but tweets about the address tilted more toward criticism than praise.
- Twitter demographics are not at all representative of the public. Twitter users are much younger than the general public. Only 13 percent of adults said they ever use Twitter or read Twitter messages, and only 3 percent said they regularly or sometimes tweet or retweet news or news headlines on Twitter. Additionally, 57 percent of Twitter users are Democrats or left-leaning, compared to the 46 percent of Democrats in the general public.
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