If you’re looking for an accurate picture of public sentiment, don’t go to Twitter. If you’re looking for negativity and partisanship, the microblogging platform is the right place.
That’s what a year-long Pew Research Center study found. Pew compared public opinion polls around eight major news events with the reactions to those events on Twitter. The organization reported:
“At times the Twitter conversation is more liberal than survey responses, while at other times it is more conservative. Often it is the overall negativity that stands out. Much of the difference may have to do with both the narrow sliver of the public represented on Twitter as well as who among that slice chose to take part in any one conversation.”
For instance, the general tenor of conversation around Obama’s reelection was about 52 percent in the positive column when it came to public opinion. On Twitter, 77 percent were positive—clearly much more liberal-leaning.
In the first presidential debate, where Obama bombed, 59 percent of tweets supported the president, while only 40 percent supported Mitt Romney.
But Pew noted that the sentiment did lean to the conservative side at times.
On the whole, negativity reigned on Twitter:
“… the overall negativity on Twitter over the course of the campaign stood out. For both candidates, negative comments exceeded positive comments by a wide margin throughout the fall campaign season. But from September through November, Romney was consistently the target of more negative reactions than was Obama.”
Check out the full results of the Pew study here.