Common Ground Initiative

Using Twitter to Measure Political Sentiment

February 6, 2011

I stumbled across this very interesting article on how Twitter can be used to track public sentiments in real-time on the New Media Strategies blog. The following post by NMS Senior Online Analyst Mark LeMunyon analyzes Twitter discussion during last week’s State of the Union Address to gauge sentiment and reactions to the speech. Read more about his findings from his post below.

Twitter Sentiment Analysis: 2011 State of the Union Address

By: Mark LeMunyon of New Media Strategies
February 2, 20011 on the NMS Blog

This is small project I whipped together by pulling information off Twitter’s API during the 2011 State of the Union Address, and then running the data through a senitment analysis to gauge audience reaction throughout the speech. The result:

This graph represents the ratio of positive words to negative words over time during the SOTU.

For reference, Pres. Obama’s speech began and ended at approximately 9:11PM and 10:13PM. To compare, here’s a timeline of selected quotes and topics discussed during the speech:

  • 21:18 – Economy, international competition
  • 21:20 – Need for innovation.
  • 21:24 – “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.”
  • 21:24 – Government investment in biotechnology, energy
  • 21:26 – “I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies.”
  • 21:28 – Education.
  • 21:33 – “We’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students.”
  • 21:36 – Immigration reform in regards to education.
  • 21:36 – Tax reform.
  • 21:45 – “If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.”
  • 21:54 – Salmon joke.
  • 21:59 – al-Qaeda.
  • 22:01 – Foreign affairs, Obama’s planned trips.
  • 22:03 – Independence of South Sudan.
  • 22:04 – Uprising in Tunisia.
  • 22:06 – DADT, military recuiting on college campuses.

If you’re interested in further comparing the data to the speech, I recommend the White House video of the SOTU on Youtube, which has a full transciption timeline. Simply add 9 hours and 11 minutes to the video time to estimate the time in EST.

The data includes 240,000 tweets which use the term “sotu”, “#sotu”, “stateoftheunion” or “state of the union”, sent between 9:00PM and 10:30PM EST on 1/25/2011.

Every tweet was compared to a list of words with predetermined sentiment scores (from the University of Pittsburgh’s OpinionFinder subjectivity lexicon). Each tweet was given two scores, one for the number of matched positive words and another for number of matched negative words. The scores were then summed up by 10 second time intervals, and a sentiment ratio (total positive words / total negative words) was generated for each 10s interval. The ratio is represented on the above graph as the gray line. The magenta line is a 60 second moving average, and the navy line is a 5 minute moving average.

This methodology is nearly identical to that of a study by Carnegie Mellon (O’Connor et al. 2010), which was featured on Mashable and other blogs. As noted in that study, there are lexicons that may work much better with Twitter, as this one was developed for proper English, which is something of a rarity on Twitter. (“#zomg4reels.”)

Again, this isn’t an extremely rigorous peer-reviewed scientific analysis, but it does provide some interesting fodder for discussion around how people reacted to the State of the Union Address.

What’s the Future of Politics & Social Media?

January 4, 2011

4 Predictions for the Future of Politics & Social Media via Mashable

Mashable, one of my favorite blogs to keep tabs on social media trends has recently published a post about 4 key predictions of the future social media and politics. This is a very interesting take on how social media will become an ever-important piece of the campaign puzzle. This post is a must read for any campaign and political guru and operative looking to gain insights into what’s next on the social media horizon for political organizations and campaigns.

The following post is written by Matt Silverman, a social media expert and Mashable contributor.

Show me a modern political candidate who doesn’t understand television, and I’ll show you a loser.
When TV became the dominant medium for Americans to consume news and entertainment, political candidates could no longer be successful without looking polished in televised debates, appearing on talk shows and spending big on commercials.

Like the television boom of the 1960s, we are standing on the precipice of a big shift in how public figures are perceived and how campaigns are conducted. Our frontier is social media, and its impact on mainstream political culture is coming on fast.

While my colleagues have been making their predictions about what’s on the tech and social media horizon in 2011, there will be no major U.S. elections next year. Here, we’ll be postulating about social media’s impact on the more long-term future of American civics.

1. There Will Be a Tipping Point

While campaigning and marketing share many similarities, the differences mean everything when you’re talking about democracy’s big picture. Brands can sell by hitting a tech savvy demographic of influencers. Elections involve everyone, whether they’re online or not.

If a large bloc of your constituency is made up of 65+ year-old retirees, chances are a Facebook strategy won’t be time well spent. Despite the enthusiasm of the tech crowd and blogosphere, Twitter is exceedingly far from the mainstream, with only 6% of Americans using the service. And while the world consumes YouTube videos at a mind-bending rate, viral success is still transient and elusive.

While these tools have certainly proven to be effective in rallying support and contributions, we don’t yet live in a world where social media can make or break a political candidate by itself.

That will change, perhaps even by the next major election cycle.

The future of the social media politician is not about wild speculation and technological uncertainties. It has everything to do with when and how deeply social media can be absorbed into mainstream culture. We are on track for a tipping point — a JFK/Nixon TV debate moment — when everyone on the political scene will acknowledge that we can never go back to campaigns without social.

2. New Media Strategists Will Just Be Strategists

I’ve had the opportunity to talk with the new media strategists for a number of senators, congresspeople and political causes. Despite their differences, they all agree that their own jobs will soon be folded into the larger campaign strategy. As many have already foreseen, social media will not require experts for much longer. As we head toward true mainstream adoption, social will be a default and well-understood tool in the belt of any public-facing professional.

We’ve already seen this happening in the private sector with marketing and PR professionals. As many corporate entities lumber to catch up with those on the cutting edge, so too will government officials and the campaigners who seek their offices.

3. We’ll See the Devaluation of Old Media in Politics

Print and radio ads are not as valuable as TV. TV will no longer be as valuable as interactive media. For politics, this is especially so, as the arena (at its best, anyway) warrants engagement and discussion.

As media appetites shift, this is an inevitability. In the U.S., we’re already seeing web use catch up with television in terms of weekly hours spent. Political money will simply go where the eyeballs are, and we’re likely to see a big payoff on social creativity when it comes to future campaigns.

4. Whistle Blowing Gets More Efficient, But That’s It

The WikiLeaks saga has ignited plenty of discussion about journalism and whistle blowing in the Internet age. But at the end of the day, the mechanics of an information leak are about the same as they’ve always been: Someone from within an organization leaks damaging information, and the media (in whatever form) disseminates it to the public. Generally speaking, WikiLeaks has only acted as a “middle man” for raw information. It’s journalists who are making sense of it and transmitting it to the public with context.

The web only speeds up this process through digitization and universal access. Governments and politicians will feel the impact of leaks sooner, but it’s unlikely the methods of protecting sensitive information will be much changed.

5 Reasons To Use Twitter For Your Campaign

November 24, 2010

How Can Twitter Help Our Organization or Campaign?

For many campaigns, Facebook is seen as the most important weapon in your social media arsenal. While I agree with that most of the time, I don’t believe that Facebook is the end all to a social media strategy. Twitter is usually in mix of social media for campaigns out of popularity, but not typically out of necessity.

I am realizing more and more that many campaigns don’t really understand the potential and true value of Twitter. Many campaign operatives, especially those who don’t use Twitter personally, feel they should embrace it, because of all the buzz surrounding it. They’ve read glamorous articles about how President Obama used Twitter to win votes or how Senator Scott Brown’s campaign had 4 times the followers as his opponent, but fail to see the tangible ways Twitter can help you get ahead of competition and ultimately become a valuable tool for your campaign. Below, I have boiled down 5 essential ways Twitter can help your campaign.

5 Ways Twitter Can Benefit Your Campaign

  1. Increase Awareness: Communicate directly with activists, volunteers, bloggers, and the media without forcing information on them. The incessant non invasive updates (tweets) will increase presence and add relevance to your campaign’s efforts.
  2. Target Your Audience: Regardless of size and scope of your campaign, there are Twitter users who care about your campaign in your state or specific geographic location. If you talk to a press member, key supporter or blogger, ask if they are on Twitter and follow them. Ask most reporters you know today, and I bet you they’re using Twitter to follow their beats.
  3. Listen To Your Community: Twitter can put voters and constituents at the heart of the campaign. Ask questions, whether they be about policy ideas or feedback on a recent television ad or speech. Letting your followers know you’re interested in what they think will send an valuable message.
  4. Engage Your Followers: Provide information about events, rallies and fundraisers and encourage volunteerism while reminding people that even small contributions go along way. Don’t be afraid to Tweet something outside of politics, because remember Twitter is for real people.
  5. Track Your Adversaries: Do a weekly or even daily search on Twitter to see if your opponent(s) or even their campaign staffs are up to on Twitter. Track what they’re tweeting about and watch for missteps that can be sent to relevant bloggers and the press corps.

What ways do you use Twitter to boost your campaign message and/or voter engagement?