Study: Twitter users 'relentlessly negative' about campaigns

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The study from Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that campaign events had no perceivable influence on the attitude of social media conversations between Aug. 27 and Oct. 21.

Either people are just plain tired of the campaigns, or social networks bring out negativity. According to Pew, neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney “enjoyed a single week of more positive than negative conversation” on Twitter, Facebook or blogs for the length of the study.

“Within that, Twitter users consistently treated Obama somewhat more favorably than Romney; the conversation among bloggers and on Facebook was more divided in tone between the two contenders,” according to the Pew study. “Every week on Twitter resembled the worst week for each candidate in the mainstream press.”

The study encompassed all three presidential debates, but found that the first presidential debate — for which opponents and allies alike criticized Obama’s performance — had no real negative impact on Twitter opinion overall.

Similarly, positive conversation about Romney remained consistent the week that a controversial recording of the GOP nominee was released. In it, he claimed 47 percent of Americans “will vote for the president no matter what” because they are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.”


Pew pointed out that although gaffes and current events have a huge influence over media coverage of the campaigns, the public’s response as revealed on social media has stayed basically steady, though highly negative.

On average, negative Twitter conversation about Romney exceeded the positive tweets by 42 points. For Obama, the gap was smaller, at 20 points more negative than positive, the study found.

Twitter users are 33 percent more likely to be Democrats than Republicans, according to a study earlier this year by Edison Research, which could help explain why Obama has more fans in the Twittersphere.

On Facebook, negative conversation about Romney exceeded positive by 39 points on average; for Obama, the difference was 29 points. But on Facebook, Pew found the tone generally improved over the eight-week study, with an increase in positive posts about both candidates, although positive posts never outpaced the negative ones.

Pew worked with social media analysis firm Crimson Hexagon on the study, sampling all tweets, public posts from Facebook and several million blogs.