Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 16, 2014

Twitter Unrepresents Popular Opinion

And now, some news that will come as a surprise to all of us Beltway-bubble, Twitter-addicted political types: Reaction on Twitter to major political events is often very different from measured public opinion.

According to a new yearlong study by the Pew Research Center, Twitter reaction to political events and policy changes is often much more partisan — and much more negative — than the scientifically gathered data on public opinion.

In layman’s terms, the general public does not agree with the snarkiness all of us Capitol Hill denizens and flacks spill on Twitter about the news of the hour.

The disparity is likely because of “the narrow sliver of the public represented on Twitter as well as who among that slice chose to take part in any one conversation,” the study says.

For example, when the California ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court last February, 46 percent of the tweets sent through the Internet were positive, and 8 percent were negative (46 percent of tweets were neutral). However, a national poll seeking public opinion on the court decision conducted by Pew found that 44 percent of Americans were disappointed in the ruling.

And during President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address, only 13 percent of the tweets sent included positive discussion of the speech, whereas public opinion on the remarks gathered in a public opinion survey was 48 percent positive.

“The lack of consistent correspondence between Twitter reaction and public opinion is partly a reflection of the fact that those who get news on Twitter — and particularly those who tweet news — are very different demographically from the public,” the study says.

We’ll let you reserve your own judgment on what that says about the Twitter-obsessed demographic in the District. Or, better yet, take to Twitter now and blast it out for the Twitterverse to see.

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