How seriously should we take social media sentiment when it comes to predicting who the next president of the United States will be?
At first glance, it might seem that millions of mentions across Twitter and Facebook are a mere melding of mass grievances and glee. But according to one data science company, the numbers could help gauge how the nation actually feels about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
A recent analysis by 4C, found that there were three times as many tweets and Facebook posts related to Trump as there were referencing Clinton. Trump, who last week officially became the Republican nominee, was mentioned 129.7 million times between Jan. 1 and July 21. During the same time period, Clinton—who's expected to be officially nominated this week during the Democratic National Convention—was mentioned just 37.3 million times.
The company also used an algorithm to examine how people were describing each candidate based on various words that were positive or negative in nature. The algorithm found that 72 percent of posts about Trump were positive, compared with 60 percent of those about Clinton.
If the Democrats want to win in November, they should take the numbers seriously.
"These aren't just hearts in the wind, one and done," said 4C CMO Aaron Goldman. "These are people on a continued basis that keep engaging with the candidates."
4C says the U.S. could learn from its U.K. counterparts. Just a few weeks ago, when people were trying to guess whether the country would vote to leave the EU, many thought the online dialogue suggested "stay" would win in a landslide. However, 4C says its analysis showed "leave" winning.
"But one thing people missed is that they weren't using the right filters to strip out the noise and focus on the signal," Goldman said.
Sure, America's electoral college system is completely different than the referendum style of the Brexit vote. But, Goldman said, the systems of analysis are largely the same.
Earlier today, the latest CNN poll showed Trump beating Clinton 44 percent to 39 percent in a four-way matchup with Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. In a head-to-head matchup, CNN's poll showed Trump winning 48 percent to 45 percent. In a separate analysis, political analyst Nate Silver said Trump had a 57 percent chance of winning.
Here are some more stats from 4C's analysis: