In preparation for the 2012 presidential elections, social analytics company Topsy has collaborated with polling firms Mellman Group and North Star Opinion Research on a social media variation on the classic public opinion poll. Released today, the Twitter Political Index will provide a daily snapshot of how Americans feel throughout the campaign.
The company explained its methodology in a statement released earlier today:
By analyzing more than 400 million Tweets a day, Topsy captures relevant Tweets about the election and quantifies how people feel about any key word or term related to the candidates. Scores are then created using Topsy’s proprietary social sentiment analysis technology. With the world’s largest public index of social media posts, Topsy has developed accurate sentiment analysis by studying more than 100 billion Tweets. Thanks to this depth of data and scale of technology, Topsy’s social sentiment algorithm has been tested to agree with human classification more than 90 percent of the time. Tweets are then given a score that ranges from zero to 100, with higher scores being more positive and lower scores more negative.
It’s kind of like a percentile score. In the screenshot above, Barack Obama had a score of 38, meaning that tweets about him were more positive than approximately 38 percent of all other terms that were mentioned on Twitter. His approval rating had dropped nine points from the day before, while Mitt Romney maintained his score of 23. The current president’s overall score was still higher. If you click on the image, you’ll see the same information in real time, where President Obama is still in the lead. There’s also a graph comparing the daily score for each candidate going back to May 1, 2012.
“The Twitter Political Index lends new insight into the natural, unprompted opinion of the electorate,” said Adam Sharp, Twitter’s head of government, news and social innovation in a statement. “Just as technologies like radar and satellite joined the thermometer and barometer to give forecasters a more complete picture of the weather, so too does the Index we’ve partnered with Topsy on stand with traditional methods like surveys and focus groups to paint a more complete picture of the political forecast.”