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Twitter reactions don’t reflect overall public opinion, study says


March 6, 2013

Twitter users are not representative of the general public, says a study from the Pew Research Center. They represent a small percentage of the overall population, tend to be younger, more liberal and pro-Democratic, and react differently to major political events and policy decisions. When a federal court ruled last February that a California law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, for instance, Twitter comments about the news were far more positive than negative, while public opinion went the other way.

In last fall’s presidential campaign, polls showed that most voters thought Mitt Romney had performed better in the first debate, while Twitter reactions were much more critical of Romney. And when Obama won the election, 77 percent of Twitter comments were positive about his victory, while just 23 percent were negative — compared to survey results that found 52 percent of voters happy about Obama’s reelection and 45 percent unhappy.

Throughout the campaign season, negative comments on Twitter exceeded positive comments by a wide margin for both candidates, but Romney consistently received more negative reactions than Obama did. The disparity partly reflects Twitter’s modest reach. According to a Pew survey, just 13 percent of adults use Twitter, and only 3 percent regularly or even occasionally tweet or re-tweet news on the micro-blogging network. Perhaps most important, Twitter users who choose to share their views vary with topics in the news. — Greg Beaubien



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