The Twitter Election – Which candidate is going to win according to Twitter?

As with every presidential election, reporters, media and analysts try to predict who will be the next commander-in-chief. With the use of our Social Media Monitor and Deep Web Harvester, we also joined in the political forecast by monitoring and analyzing tweets that were sent before, during and after each of the three presidential debates. The tweets we gathered came from Iowa and Ohio, two major swing states.

First Debate: Iowa and Ohio Switch Favorites

Before the first debate, tweets monitored concluded that Ohioans were talking more about Governor Romney (57 percent), and Iowans were talking more about President Obama (53 percent). However, during and after the debate, the tables turned. In Ohio, Obama pulled ahead in number of mention (53 percent), and in Iowa, Romney took the lead in number of mentions (51 percent).  Although these are interesting numbers, the mentions do not necessarily indicate popularity, rather just conversation.

For example, before the first debate the hashtag #cantafford4more, which is promoted by the Romney campaign, was used 1,390 in Ohio. Although this would initially lead you to believe that Ohioans were using the hashtag to speak favorably of Romney, the hashtag was actually used most often with the word “weeks” following it, referring to Ohioans dwindling tolerance for Romney during the last month of the campaign.

Second Debate: Obama Favored in Mentions and Retweets

Before the second debate, Obama took the lead in both states in regards to number of mentions (54 percent in both states). Again, this doesn’t necessarily regard popularity. Looking at actual tweets that were sent and retweeted can sometimes provide more insight. For example, @LOLGOP’s tweet, “I firmly believe in the separation of Mitt Romney and state” was retweeted 347 times in Ohio, and @swilbert1’s tweet, “Could Mitt Romney clear this #Sensata situation up by showing his tax returns of the last 12 years?  Or maybe that’s why he’s hiding them,” was retweeted 103 times in Iowa.

By the end of the second debate, Twitter users in Ohio and Iowa were still having more conversation about Obama than Romney.

Third Debate: Romney Wins Mentions, but Obama is Still Ohio Favorite

Before the third debate, Ohio was busy talking about Obama, while Iowa changed their tune and mentioned Gov. Romney more times than they did Pres. Obama.

During and after the debate, however, Ohio took to mentioning Romney more times than Obama. But, as before, mentions do not necessarily mean all of the talk is positive. For instance, the most retweeted tweet in Ohio was in favor of Obama, as it read, “’I, I, I, I.’ Obama says, ‘We, We, We, We.’ Just sayin’ #Debate” from @Jen_Tyrrell.

Iowans continued to talk about Romney more than Obama both during and after the third debate. Senator Chuck Grassley got involved with the conversation in Iowa during the debate, with his tweet saying, “Notice how rude Obama is interrupting many times Romney. Romney should not be so polite.” This was the most retweeted tweet from Iowans regarding the debate.

Romney having more mentions from both Ohio and Iowa after the third debate counters Obama garnering the majority of the offline media coverage after the third debate.

Breaking Down the Numbers

So what does all of this mean? From our monitoring, Obama was the most mentioned candidate after the three debates combined, with 111,680 vs. 105,370 mentions in Ohio and 36,442 vs. 30,615 mentions in Iowa. However, comparing the number of mentions overall, from both before and after all three debates, Obama was the most mentioned in Ohio (51.1 percent), but Romney was the most talked about candidate in Iowa (50.4 percent).

Overall, our Twitter monitoring can say that Obama will win in Ohio based on the number of times he was mentioned and the context of the most retweeted messages from users in that state. And our monitored tweets show that Iowans favor Romney in regard to overall mentions and their most retweeted message, which was in favor of Romney.

BrightPlanet Monitoring Results vs. Polling Firms’ Results

As we come to Election Day, the tweet mentions we monitored do not measure up to the polls that are being conducted in these two states with regard to Iowa. Because according to New York Times Political Analyst Nate Silver, Obama has an 80.5 percent probability of taking Ohio and he has a 78.8 percent probability of winning Iowa (Percentages calculated on Nov. 2, 2012).

If we look at the most popular tweets, the ones that were the most retweeted in Ohio and Iowa, results agree with Silver’s polls in Ohio but still contradict with Silver’s polls in Iowa. Ohio’s most retweeted messages during both the second and third debates were in favor of Obama. However, Iowa’s most retweeted message during the third debate was in favor of Romney. And the most popular tweet from Iowa across all of the debates was retweeted 1,367 times and came from @SouthernRow, saying, “If Romney keeps this up, Obama is going to vote for him.”

All in all, the probability of Obama winning Ohio is high in regard to our monitoring and polling from that state. However, our monitoring has Iowans favoring Romney, while polls have Obama taking Iowa. Seems like Iowa is determined to live up to its title as a “swing state” until the very end.

The Twitter Election

The 2012 election has been called the “Twitter Election,” since more tweets are being sent than prior to the election in 2008. The growth of Twitter and its ease for discussion has made it an interesting component of analysis across the nation in this campaign season. In August, Twitter launched the Twitter Political Index. A data analysis team and two polling firms have spent the campaign season since August evaluating and weighing the sentiments of tweets mentioning Obama and Romney across the nation. As of Nov. 2, 2012, the Twitter Political Index has Obama at a 43 point lead versus Romney with 26 points. The “points” are percentages based on the number of tweets sent in general every day, which usually averages at 400 million. However, the “popular vote” cannot compete with the power of the electoral college, so the battleground states are the ones that really matter.

There has been long-standing contention that Twitter is democratic. The numbers we collected from Twitter from Ohio and Iowa during the 2012 presidential debates counter that argument. Although President Obama had more attention on Twitter from Ohio, Republican candidate Romney received more attention from Iowa. The discrepancy with Twitter’s democratic undertones increases when looking at the context of the most popular tweets in Iowa.

Twitter may say one thing about the outcome of the campaign, but the votes that really matter are the ones that happen offline. We encourage you to report to your polling station tomorrow and cast your vote.


Photo: Vectorportal