Twitter and The Campaign Examined by Pew
December 8, 2011
How the discussion on Twitter varies from blogs and news coverage and Ron Paul's twitter triumph
A detailed examination of more than 20 million Tweets about the race for president finds that the political discussion on Twitter is measurably different than the one found in the blogosphere — more voluminous, more fluid and even less neutral.
But both forms of social media differ markedly from the political narrative that Americans receive from news coverage, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which examines campaign coverage and the online conversation from May 2 — November 27.
One distinguishing factor about the campaign discourse on Twitter is that it is more intensely opinionated, and less neutral, than in both blogs and news. Tweets contain a smaller percentage of statements about candidates that are simply factual in nature without reflecting positively or negatively on a candidate.
In general, that means the discourse on Twitter about the candidates has also been more negative.
The political discussion on Twitter has also fluctuated with events more than it has in the blogosphere, where the authors seem to have made up their minds and where the tone about candidates shifts relatively little. On Twitter, the conversation about a candidate sometimes changed markedly from week to week, shifting from positive to negative and vice versa.
Finally the new study found that the candidate conversation on Twitter is tremendously active — indeed the number of statements about candidates on Twitter vastly outnumber those offered in blogs by a factor of more than 9 to 1.
While it is impossible to know whether the blog sample is capturing the entirety of the political blog conversation, as it is captured on Twitter, it does include all the blogs that enjoy broad traffic and that are tracked by the major blog monitoring services. Data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that a slightly higher percentage of adult internet users say they blog (14%) than use Twitter (13%). And according to the survey, Twitter use is slightly bigger among male internet users than females, most popular among those 18-29 and more widely used by non-white internet users than white ones.
If the difference in volume between Twitter and blogs is indicative of something about the volume of the discourse in those two universes, it suggests that tweeting — with its trim 140-character format that readily invites the instantaneous observation — is a more frequent activity than blogging.
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