United States presidential 2012: the Twitter election

Twitter has become a major player in American politics. And above all, during the presidential elections. Adam Sharp, head of government, news and social innovation at Twitter reported there had been 360,000 total tweets during the two conventions in 2008. The total for both in 2012 was nearly 14 million. Obama and Romney have clearly understood this evolution and were thereby really active on Twitter.

Obama’s account on 30th October 2012, 7512 tweets, 21 462 442 followers

Romney’s account on 30th october 2012, 1312 tweets, 1 625 024 followers

If we take a look at these screenshots we note a clear advantage in Obama’s account. The president has almost 15 times more followers than Romney. He has been tweeting 5 times more than his opponent. We notice also the fact that Obama’s account is run by his campaign staff. This can explain the difference of activity among the two accounts.

Given that huge activity on Twitter, the social media has created a special tool for the presidential: “The Twitter political index” or “Twindex”. This tool has been built in partnership with social web search company Topsy and polling Firms (The Mellman Group and North Star).

Let’s take a look at this short video wich explains us what is the Twindex.

How does it work? Everyday, the Twitter Political Index measures the sentiment of tweets that mention Obama or Romney. The scale runs from one to 100, with 100 being highest,  a score of 65 for a candidate means tweets with their name or account name are on average more positive than 65 percent of all tweets.

Twitter political index, the 4th November 2012, 2 days before the election

Twindex on 17th November 2012, 11 days after the election.

It is quite interesting to see that the “Twindex curve” follows nearly the curve of Gallup (a very serious old and serious pollster in United States). The blue curve represents Twindex and the red curve represent Gallup.

Feeling the good business, certain website have even tried to commercialize some advices about the use of Twitter. A good example is “the guide for effective political tweeting”that give us a list of 20 advices.  For example: “Sound like a human. Be succinct and funny”. “Never use more than one link per tweet”. “Limit tweet to a single idea”.

140elect.com, website (supporting Obama) who teachs you how to be effective when you tweet

This slipping of political debates on social media don’t make everybody happy. There are also negative voices. The principal argument is to say that there are only 13% of American active on Twitter. Thereby it becomes difficult to measure the real opinion of the American population on this social media. There is also the problem of a shallower political debates on Internet: How can you express complex arguments with only 140 characters?

However it is impressive to notice the increasing importance of Twitter in American Politics.When is it going to stop? Could we imagine the disappearance of polling stations? American citizens that vote directly on Twitter using the hashtag # OfficialVote ?

See you in 2016 to see how Twitter can surprise us again!

 By Simon Vuille

To learn more about the way Obama and Romney use the social media: http://www.journalism.org/analysis_report/how_presidential_candidates_use_web_and_social_media

The Twitter political index:

https://election.twitter.com/

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  1. #1 by guillaume35 on November 24, 2012 - 19:50

    Great article, can’t wait to be in 2016 and see how twitter surprises us again!

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