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Twitter and the election: Revisiting predictions

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When the 2012 United States Republican presidential primaries and caucuses began back in January, we took a look at whether Twitter activity could be used as a predictor of the elections. We started tracking all tweets that mentioned any of a candidate’s Twitter accounts (personal and campaign) and based on the Twitter activity coming out of the Iowa caucuses, we saw that Twitter activity was less an indicator of the outcome, and more a reflection of the overall conversation happening around the candidate. Reach, exposure, and activity were largely driven by mentions by popular news and media accounts, many of which have significant numbers of followers and retweets.

Since January, the Twitter activity on the candidates has been staggering – some of the largest reach and exposure we’ve ever tracked, with over 8 million tweets from hundreds of thousands of contributors. These contributors reached more than 120 million unique Twitter accounts and generated almost 22 billion impressions.

Right before the Super Tuesday primaries in March, we launched the TweetReach Republican Primary Tracker which looked at the relationship between what people say on Twitter and what they do at the polls.  In the visualization, we mapped the number of unique Twitter users talking about a candidate to the y-axis, polling results to the x-axis, and tweet volume to the circle radius.

While, based on our previous analysis, we did not believe Twitter conversations could predict winners, we thought it would be interesting to see what tweets can tell us about how potential voters feel about the candidates. The visualizer confirmed that despite a candidate’s tweet volume, reach, and exposure on Twitter, these data were not a good predictor of election results. They are, however, a great way to understand how popular dialogue about a candidate translates into Twitter conversation.

Today, with Rick Santorum bowing out of the race, we took another look and found that Twitter conversation about Santorum had been relatively quiet since Super Tuesday but, as expected, spiked with today’s news as people came out of the woodwork to Tweet about the candidate.

In fact, a full 21% of Rick Santorum’s exposure since Super Tuesday (over 368 million impressions) occurred today after the announcement. When viewed with the TweetReach Republican Primary Tracker, the impact of the conversation around Santorum’s departure is even more pronounced.

We look forward to tracking the upcoming full election. In the meantime, we’d love to know what you think!

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Written by Dean Cruse

April 10th, 2012 at 5:52 pm

2 Responses to 'Twitter and the election: Revisiting predictions'

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  1. [...] tweets about the U.S. Republican presidential candidates (see our interactive visualization andanalysis). Now that Mitt Romney has emerged as the presumptive GOP nominee, we’re tracking the [...]

  2. [...] announce his vice presidential running mate tomorrow. We find Twitter’s potential to predict (or not) cultural and current events very interesting, so we’ll be following along and will post a [...]

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