Main Tweet: Researchers Dig Into The Intersection of Politics and Twitter

The latest findings include how many electoral tweets are messages of support, as opposed to venting and complaints about hypocrisy

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A person poses with a cell phone in front of a computer screen to check Barack Obama's tweet on November 7, 2012.

Twitter is many things to politicians and political junkies: a newsfeed, a megaphone—even the place where a promising promising career can quickly devolve into chaos. The 200 million tweets sent each day are also a data trove that researchers are mining for insights into forces like the influence of campaign cash, party affiliation trends, and, in a new study, the reasons people tweet about politics in the first place.

Computer scientist Saif Mohammad and his team at Canada’s National Research Council started with a million tweets related to America’s 2012 election, which they found using hashtags like #gop, #Obama and #RomneyRyan2012. With the help of crowdsourcing, they then classified a sample of about 2,000 tweets, with multiple readers assigning one of 11 purposes to each message. The most popular inspirations the annotators identified were “to support” (26%), “to ridicule” (15%) and “to provide information without any emotional content” (13%).

Mostly, they found negativity–criticism, venting, charges of hypocrisy. “The number of messages posted to oppose someone or something were almost twice the number of messages posted to offer support,” Mohammad writes. The researchers also waded into the popular, developing world of sentiment analysis, asking different annotators to assign emotions to the same tweets. The team then used features like emotion-related keywords to build a computer model that would automatically detect why a tweet was sent. The model identified the same purpose as the humans had in nearly half its guesses.

Any political strategist would love to know the Twittersphere’s aggregated sentiments in an instant. But the existence of a program that can systematically understand the meaning of tweets–with all their irony and nuance–is a long way off. Still, Mohammed’s results are a step in that direction and his paper looks ahead to that day, explaining how such research could be used to detect the electorate’s mood, or assess voter opinion about key policies and issues.

Other researchers are zeroing in on clues to whether a tweeter is a Republican or a Democrat. In a 2011 study published by Yahoo Labs, researchers gathered keywords more likely to be used by liberals or conservatives. Democrats, for instance, are more apt to tweet terms like rightsjustice and reform. Republicans prefer constitution, economy and, of course, tea.

In July, computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University published a study analyzing tweets from members of Congress. Their aim was to find a connection between what politicians tweeted about and where they got their campaign contributions. And they did. “You can actually guess [at the funding] that somebody’s getting based on the words they use,” says Noah Smith, one of the authors. “A congressman who uses the hashtag #sopa and talks about the Internet, he’s more likely to be funded by computing companies and groups.”

Smith has also worked on papers that use language analysis to mirror Gallup’s economic confidence poll and presidential approval ratings. He has even pursued the holy grail of political Twitter research: predicting the outcomes of elections. Though some academics have trumpeted positive results, most researchers are skeptical on this point. “I Wanted to Predict Elections with Twitter and all I got was this Lousy Paper,” was the title of one Spanish researcher’s 2012 paper, which noted that Twitter users are not a random sample and that academics often fail to account for factors like an incumbent’s statistical advantage.

Researchers will continue chasing the dream of forecasting election results through social media. In the meantime, they’ll have to settle for more modest findings–like that political wonks are more likely to tweet in anger than in praise.

14 comments
KentR
KentR

Praise and happyness most the time does not make the front page of the paper  or headlines on AP Copy    Catch  some one in office with his  or her pants down    and you have Weener Gate  or   some gotcha  idea of a date with other than your spouse  as in the movies  statement What Bleeds Leads..   seldom is a nice Human interest story  getting top billing   it is no wonder that  when you catch a political Crook  Plying his trade  for some Corporate investor in his election  you will bring it to the attention of voters  to rid the Congress  or  what ever office  try and end that error in judgement and lack of morals.  

Since the Supreme court goof  in allowing  clubs  unions or Corporate  entries  spend untill they have nothing left in the till  as speech   we now have the problems of Hyper lobby groups that are working to  gain  the darkest bottom line they can have what ever it takes..   That of it's self  is cause to switch out incumbents   after 2 terms  to limit power of longevity in Congressional office

MrBenGhazi
MrBenGhazi

If the goal is to predict the elections, just follow the money: election securities, that is. 

http://tippie.uiowa.edu/iem/

This University of Iowa electronic market has successfully predicted each Presidential election outcome since 2000, and in that election predicted the neck-and-neck outcome (though not the eventual winner, which was decided unconstitutionally and unpredictably).

JoeMartinez
JoeMartinez

Very few politicians of today earn phrase for a job well done. Our political system has become a dog eat dog mentality, line your pockets and steal as much as you can while you can. Consider how many retire poor(none) in ten years those that get booted out retire  millionaires with an annual salary of approximately $150,000.00, do the math and to top it all with retirement benefits and keep their wages for life, yes they made this law. They are liars, thieves that make laws that apply only to honest citizens. And to protect themselves have transformed the Supreme Court to benefit their agenda. Our political system is broken down. It's no wonder our nation is anger and divided, the last time our nation was this bitterly divided was in the 1920's. Unfortunately the Tea Party identified our illness, but lacked the brain power to overcome demagoguery in Washington.

scrowley2403
scrowley2403

Leopold Donchield Zu Leone II

The rise of the constitutional monarchy in Africa

I have been reading articles on Leopold Donchield Zu Leone II on constitutional monarchy system and economic development and his views and arguments he has on how African countries could benefit from this system. I found these ideas brilliant and that inspired me to make more research on constitutional monarchy holistically. I looked back in history to find out what other European countries and the rest of the world went through in order for them to use the constitutional monarchy system. There are a lot of writers who wrote books on constitutional monarchy. I make mention of Mr Walter Bagehot, Vernon Bogdanor and Benjamin Disraeli to mention just a few.

We will look into the arguments we see from Walter Bagehot’s theories on constitutional monarchy. He starts by referring us to the types of democracy used then, that of Representative Democracy and constitutional Democracy. He writes that in England for instance, the property owning class considered the return of an absolute monarch as a greater threat. Glorious revolution of 1688 deposed one King and replaced him with another one that agreed to abide by a set of rules limiting his powers.

The age of the constitutional monarchy was born and the concept of an unalterable constitution was to play a significant role in the next stage of the development of democracy theory. Mr Bagehot referred to the two political ideas that emerged in the 18th century;

a) Individual and individual rights in political society.

b) The rise of science as an explanatory tool. He also made mention of to the revolutions in America and France.

The French revolution in 1789 and wars in America in 1861-65 left to a claim for a legitimate claim for a political system that is based on the will of the people. These rights were:

  • Freedom of speech;
  • Freedom of assembly;
  • Freedom of religious belief;
  • Freedom to participate in the legislative process.

The signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. Leading of England succeeded in forcing King John to accept that they and other freemen had rights against the crown. In 1688 Parliamentarians drew up a bill of rights which established basic tenets such as the supremacy of Parliament. The constitutional monarchy we know today developed in the 18th and 19th centuries as day to day power came to be exercised by ministers in cabinet and by parliaments elected. (Reference book “The English Constitution” of 1867 by Walter Bagehot)

These are some of the reasons I see the arguments raised by Leopold Donchield Zu Leone II to be in line with those of Mr Walter Bagehot. Mr Walter Bagehot wrote that the nation is divided into parties, but the crown is of no party. Its apparent separation from business is that which removes it both from enmities and from desecration, which preserves its mystery which enable it to combine the affection of conflicting parties, the Royal family brings down the pride of sovereignty to the level of petty life. Mr Walter Bagehot refers to 3 rights:

  • The right to be consulted.
  • The right to encourage.
  • The right to warn.

By the time King George V rules, the principles of constitutional monarchy was firmly established in Britain. The bill of rights of 1689 set out the foundation of the constitutional monarchy. They were:

  • Freedom from Royal interference with the law.
  • Freedom from taxation by Royal prerogative.
  • Freedom to petition the King.
  • Freedom to elect members of parliament without interference from the sovereign.

Mr Walter Bagehot wrote the monarchy was the better form of government than a republic because it had more appeal. He outlined his reasons as:

  • Monarchy is ‘an intelligible government’.
  • Monarchy presents the nation with a family.
  • ‘Royalty is a government in which the attention of the nation is concentrated on one person doing interesting actions.’

In his book ‘efficient secret’, Mr Walter Bagehot divided the constitution into the ‘dignified’ and ‘efficient parts’. He refers to parliament as the efficient part, monarchy the dignified, where the role of the monarchy is mentioned above. He wrote that the ‘secret lies in the fact that the British people are not aware of what is happening. They see the grandeur and panoply of monarchy and are deluded into believing that the Queen has real power. The people are incapable of governing themselves and therefore it is right to deny them a share in the government. Because they are enormously deferential, they welcome the monarch and its apparent powers. It is important for the monarchy to be visible’.

For more on this article click: http://www.leopold-donchieldzuleoneii.blogspot.com

http://www.leopolddonchieldzuleone-ii.blogspot.ie

http://www.leopoldzuleoneii.wordpress.com

sacredh
sacredh

"He has even pursued the holy grail of political Twitter research: predicting the outcomes of elections."

A reliable method is already in use. It's called "Nate Silver".

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Thanks, Katy. As you're aware, tweets can be manipulated - bot programs, people who act like bots and create multiple profiles and flood the twittersphere with spam, just-plain-rotten trolls (sound familiar here?), etc. So I wonder how the numbers mentioned might be skewed by these. 

Then again, if YOU want to do an illuminating  - or at least solemnly amusing -  report (with newly minted bureau chief / High Sheriff Michael Scherer's blessing, I presume), you can draw similar parallel behaviors between twitter and political blogs by studying US commentariat at swampland. On one hand, we certainly have a handful of, ahem, just-plain-rotten trolls from the political right (you know who they are) that makes for daily misery. On the other hand, whenever posts gets Drudged, we get drive-by locusts that drive up the thread counts but drive down the quality. Can ALL of those locusts be separate real people, or are many fakes? Are rightie trolls being paid to annoy us? Oh, what an eye-opener you could reveal, Katy. Of course, I doubt it would make the pests clean up their behavior, but sunshine is always the best disinfectant.

sacredh
sacredh

"the reasons people tweet about politics in the first place."

Thanks for the article Katy. For many of us, the reason we talk about politics so much is because it's our "Fantasy Football". For political junkies, the internet is our dream come true. We get to express our opinions and in cases like the swamp, it's a place where those of us that live in conservative areas can inter-act with people that either are of like mind or offer us insights into what is going on where they live.

bojimbo26
bojimbo26

Because twitter is one place where you can vent about politicians . Unless they get votes , they will not listen .

sacredh
sacredh

@deconstructiva, if someone is paying the trolls, they're not getting the money's worth. They regularly get their @sses kicked and do more harm to their cause than good. If anything, I think they're driving more people into our column than into theirs. The only people they might influence are the ones that would vote GOP no matter what.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

@sacredh

I think you're right - (ticking) people off is a terrible means of persuasion, and the Tea's hatred only feeds those who are already filled with hate. Certainly it's a twisted preaching to the Satanic choir, as Ezra Klein wrote about FOX "News"

"The people who watch them are watching them because they are already polarized. If Fox News didn’t exist, Fox News’s viewers would have to invent it."

.

...and I digress, but what Tero wrote yesterday at MMR's (hoping Katy, Scherer, and other swamp reporters / High Sheriffs notice) certainly applies to blog behavior here (at least Twitter doesn't have that artificial limit) - 

"So let me get this straight? The trolls can spew whatever hate they want, including calling all of us murderers, but god forbid we use any of the key words that trigger moderation; d1ck, k lan, etc.? WTF?"


sacredh
sacredh

@deconstructiva, I am puzzled by the inclusion of "KIan" on the list. This one seems extremely arbitray.  The kIan is of historic importance and is still active. It also seems like a sop to the right to keep from getting that label even though there is a very strong racist streak in the GOP today. It makes me wonder if they're going to ban the words "socialist" or "baby killer" to even things out.

sacredh
sacredh

@deconstructiva I didn't figure this out. I forget who did, but the same trick works with "feIIatio" which is another banned word. Imagine that.

sacredh
sacredh

@deconstructiva 

I think the moderation feature is just an automated system with little, if any, human supervision. There is an easy way around the k lan thing though. Use a capital "i" instead of a lower case "L". It looks the same and bypasses moderation.

KIan. haha.