Obama Leads In Brand New “Twitter Index”
Move over, Quinnipiac: Twitter got into the world of political polling this week when they introduced the Twitter Index, a new indicator of a candidate’s popularity on the microblogging site. On the inaugural day yesterday, President Barack Obama led Mitt Romney, 34 to 25.
The index is not a straight up score of positive tweets about the candidates, but a comparison of the volume of positive tweets about the candidate to positive tweets in general on the site. For example, Romney’s score of 25 means that tweets about him are 25% more positive than the average comment on Twitter yesterday.
The index will be updated every day at 8pm ET. Today, Obama’s index shot up to 44, while Romney’s rose to 26.
In a blog post, Twitter government head Adam Sharp said he hoped that the Twitter Index would add to existing polling, showing interesting comparisons and contrasts.
For example, the trend in Twitter Political Index scores for President Obama over the last two years often parallel his approval ratings from Gallup, frequently even hinting at where the poll numbers are headed. But what’s more interesting are the periods when these data sets do not align, like when his daily scores following the raid that killed Osama bin Laden dropped off more quickly than his poll numbers, as the Twitter conversation returned to being more focused on economic issues.
However, the statement from Twitter did veer into comically grandiose terms, comparing the index to “radar and satellite” coming after the “thermometer and barometer;” and declaring that “just an election cycle ago,” personal political conversations “were limited to coffee shops, dinner tables and water coolers.”
Calm down, Twitter, you didn’t discover fire. The Internet and social media have actually existed for a few election cycles. And I’m not sure that your index is “radar” to Gallup’s “thermometer.”
At first glance, it seems like the Twitter Index is strongly skewed to younger voters, who both use social media and support Obama more than older counterparts. The system also seems open to manipulation by a coordinated social media campaign.
However, these concerns can all be taken into account and maybe controlled for, and I think Twitter deserves to be commended for trying to capture the new ways that Americans express themselves politically.
What do you think of the Twitter Index?