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A new study from the Pew Research Center claims that Twitter comments do not accurately reflect public opinion. It said that most Twitter users tended to be young and liberal, and the majority of Tweets are negative.
Mashable's Alex Fitzpatrick reported, "Seemingly dozens of startups exist which try to make sense of Twitter sentiment, and Twitter itself has been trying hard to portray its sentiment data as an accurate reflection of public opinion. However, Pew Research Center — among the gold standards of public research polling — says it might be all for naught. Pew compared traditional public poll results with Twitter sentiment data around eight of the most significant political events over the last year, often finding significantly divergent results."
Computerworld's John Ribeiro added, "After President Obama's re-election on Nov. 6, for example, 77% of post-election Twitter comments about the outcome were positive about Obama's victory while 23% were negative. A survey of voters by Pew in the days following the U.S. presidential election found a more mixed reaction -- 52% said they were happy about Obama's re-election while 45% were unhappy."
The Washington Post's Scott Clement observed, "The reasons for the divergence are numerous and uncertain. As the Pew report notes, 'Twitter users are not representative of the public.' Just 13 percent of Americans use Twitter — half of whom are younger than 30 years old – and only 3 percent tweet at least 'sometimes' about news. In addition, the nature of a self-published tweet is far different than that of a traditional survey response, where respondents are chosen and asked a standardized questionnaire."
Slate's Will Oremus noted, "Twitter users skew young and left—they leaned hard toward Barack Obama during the election and for gay rights in California. But the most consistent bias that Pew found was not toward liberals or conservatives. It was a bias against, well, almost everything. For instance, the Twitterati were heavily against Obama's nomination of John Kerry for Secretary of State, and they thought the president's 2012 State of the Union speech was a stinker. (In both cases, Pew found the public as a whole generally supportive.) And while they evinced more hate for Romney than Obama overall, negative comments toward both 'exceeded positive comments by a wide margin throughout the fall campaign season.' In Pew's words: 'At times the Twitter conversation is more liberal than survey responses, while at other times it is more conservative. Often it is the overall negativity that stands out.'"