If you’re online any amount of time, you realize it’s a pretty mean place. People post things they’d NEVER say to someone in person, as the thought of hurting anyone’s feelings has become almost alien.
The suspension of disbelief online is pretty complete – and crazy. We smugly type horribly hurtful things at each other, while pretending it isn’t personal and then rail against the horrors of cyberbullying – talk about the bully calling the kettle black!
But is Twitter really any worse than the Internet overall? According to this study – yes (implied). And it also is NOT representative of overall public sentiment. So it looks like if you’re on Twitter, chances are you’re a jerk (and liberal).
In a study, Twitter Reaction to Events Often at Odds with Overall Public Opinion, the folks at Pew Research determined that Twitterers are often more negative and liberal than others. How did they determine this? By comparing it to national surveys:
The reaction on Twitter to major political events and policy decisions often differs a great deal from public opinion as measured by surveys. This is the conclusion of a year-long Pew Research Center study that compared the results of national polls to the tone of tweets in response to eight major news events, including the outcome of the presidential election, the first presidential debate and major speeches by Barack Obama.
Describing the tool used to come to this conclusion as “more than 90% reliable,” Pew says “[o]ften it is the overall negativity [on Twitter] that stands out.”
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.
Twitter users are not representative of the public. Most notably, Twitter users are considerably younger than the general public and more likely to be Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party. In the 2012 news consumption survey, half (50%) of adults who said they posted news on Twitter were younger than 30, compared with 23% of all adults. And 57% of those who posted news on Twitter were either Democrats or leaned Democratic, compared with 46% of the general public.
And then we get to the part that seems to say (to me) that the whole thing is actually pretty meaningless:
In another respect, the Twitter audience also is broader than the sample of a traditional national survey. People under the age of 18 can participate in Twitter conversations, while national surveys are limited to adults 18 and older. Similarly, Twitter conversations also may include those living outside the United States.
So isn’t this comparing apples and squares? You tell us. Do these findings ring true to you angry liberals?