Twitter Reaction to Events Often at Odds with Overall Public Opinion


Twitter mostly has different comments or reaction over political decision or events compare to majority people’s perspective. PewResearchCenter did a whole year study to reach that conclusion. They compared eight different major news including the presidential election of Obama. Every now and then the comments on Twitter are free minded, but sometimes it can be the opposite. Mostly is famous of its negative attitude.

Twitter’s attitude towards some events are more supportive of demographic than average opinions. Same-sex marriage is an example – even though most people’s perspective of this incident is negative (44% compare to 33% of positive), twitter’s reaction towards this is more positive than negative (46% compare to 8%). Another example is presidential election in autumn. While the larger number of people are supporting Mitt Romney’s performance on the first round, twitter was standing behind Obama. After Obama won the campaign, most people’s feelings about this are mixed. Nearly half and half are happy and unhappy but twitter has very extreme attitude. 77% conversations are positive.

Moreover, after Obama’s second inaugural, the public showed very positive opinions during the survey while this time twitter chose to be conservative. 65% contents are neutral about that. It has the same reaction about John Kerry post-nomination. However, there are two cases out of eight during Pew’s study showed twitter’s same attitude as the public. Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate and the Supreme Court’s ruling on the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Most people including conversations on twitter are not positive of Romney choosing Paul Ryan and they also don’t approve Supreme Court’s decision on health care.


Why opinions on twitter can be so unpredictable and different? One thing we know is that the twitter users who get news and write posts on that platform are very different kind of person from the public. There are not many people using twitter, not mention to regular active users. According to Pew’s survey, only 3% are active twitter users. This is why the opinions on twitter are not so representative because they are not on behalf on the public, especially when the majority users on twitter are younger generations who are Democrats. Also, because of the regulation, those who are 18 or older can participate in national survey but there is no age limitation on tweeting opinions online. Similar as condition of non American citizen people. Moreover, and more importantly, the twitter users who posted opinions of different topics or events are not the same group of people. They have more enthusiasm about Obama’s campaign than other events. More than half of users tweeted posts about presidential election. Various groups have various interests and it has nothing to do with the adults’ reactions all over the country.


  1. How do you think this fact will influence the results of public events? Will it actually have effects?
  2. In a user’s perspective, is twitter a trustworthy recourse of those sensitive topics? What about other social medias?




2 thoughts on “Twitter Reaction to Events Often at Odds with Overall Public Opinion

  1. Like many other platforms, Twitter offers information; and information is valuable. As mentioned in the write-up Twitter can offer a platform for free speech and enthusiasm; however it cannot compare, contrast, and statistically value all voters. In the grand scheme of things, the vote of the twitter user who says nothing on social media is still worth the same as the vote of the user who tweets 20x a day. There is nothing wrong with either user/voter, yet since the heavy “tweeters” often have a liberal bias, the social media platform will often present a spectrum that is skewed to the left.

  2. This study seems to highlight more of the demographic metrics (and social tendencies) that active Twitter users fall into more than a “phenomenon”. But it does also highlight a very good point that Twitter comments, though increasingly providing juicy tidbits for any good/popular story, are not an accurate representation of the general opinions of the country, but just of those “active” Twitter users. So when you see a Twitter blurb in a story, its content should probably be taken with a big fat grain of salt and a bit of research into who’s opinion you’re reading.

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