Is Twitter A True Measure Of Public Sentiment?

March 6, 2013
According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, the assessment of Twitter on events is radically different from how the public actually perceives these. What is thought to be the "majority" on the micro-blogging site may not be the most accurate representation of how the rest of the world thinks. The study lasted an entire year which covered eight major news events. The Pew Research Center compared the tone of tweets to the actual results of national polls on national activities and concluded that the social media network is more liberal compared to actual responses. During Barack Obama?s reelection in November 2012, positive responses were rated 77 percent on Twitter but only 52 percent in actual public opinion. The negative responses were 23 percent on Twitter and 45 percent in terms of public opinion. pew When it came to the first presidential debate, Twitter showed 59 percent Obama support, although public opinion only had 20 percent. Romney support was 40 percent on Twitter and 66 percent in public opinion. When the same-sex marriage issue was raised, Twitter indicated that positive responses were at 46 percent, negative responses at only 8 percent and neutral at 46 percent. Public opinion held that positive opinions were 33 percent, negative at 44 percent and neutral at 15 percent. During the second inaugural speech of Barack Obama, Twitter showed that positive responses were at 13 percent compared to the 48 percent of public opinion. Negative responses were at 21 percent online compared to 22 percent of the actual public opinion. Neutral responses on Twitter were at 65 percent compared to 29 percent of public opinion. The results may be affected by the fact that Twitter has a lot of younger users living in urbanized places that have more liberal views on events and issues. The idea that marketers can derive from the study is how Twitter represents the ideas and responses of a huge number of people -- but not all people. Marketing campaigns and efforts done on social media should be prepared carefully, keeping in mind the target demographics and choosing the right platform that will best suit the business objectives. In short, the opinions gathered through Twitter and other forms of social media more reflect the views of those who have access to these technologies and have Internet connections. But, see, this group of technologically-linked individuals comprise only a fraction of the actual population.

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