Twitter says it has developed a way to measure how its users feel about the presidential candidates, drawing on the nearly 2 million weekly posts on the micro-blogging site about President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
The company joined forces with the data analysis firm Topsy and two campaign pollsters–Democrat Mark Mellman and Republican Jon McHenry–to launch the new Twitter Political Index, which it says “evaluates and weighs the sentiment of tweets mentioning Obama or Romney relative to the more than 400 million tweets sent on all other topics” each day.
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The effort is designed to supplement conventional ways of measuring public opinion, Twitter says, and is not a replacement. But as the political survey research industry is confronting unprecedented challenges, many are looking to non-survey approaches to fill the gaps.
Topsy developed an algorithm that assesses the sentiment of a tweet in the same way that a random individual would more than 90 percent of the time. And Adam Sharp, the leader of Twitter’s government, news, and social innovation team, says that the algorithm can be altered and refined to reflect the changing rhetoric of the campaign. “It is a collection of key words, phrases, and patterns that is ever expanding what is positive and negative,” he said.