What is the Correlation between Twitter, Polls and the Popular Vote in the 2012 Presidential Election?

Posted: 22 Aug 2013 Last revised: 6 Sep 2015

See all articles by Anne L. Washington

Anne L. Washington

NYU Steinhardt

Fernando Parra

University of Texas at El Paso - College of Business Administration

Jason Bennett Thatcher

Clemson University

Kyle LePrevost

Clemson University

David Morar

Elliott School of International Affairs

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

This paper contributes to the ongoing discourse on social media and elections, by evaluating Twitter activity during the 2012 United States presidential campaign. We specifically ask: what is the correlation between Twitter, polls and the popular vote? In response to current debates on methods, we evaluated multiple configurations of Election Day Twitter activity. The Twitter activity in our study included a commercial proprietary sentiment analysis, dictionary-based sentiment analysis, and volume of messages analyzed at multiple time periods. We normalized all data by converting values into binary proportions for the two major candidates. Bivariate statistical analysis using a chi-square test provided comparative analysis. Our findings suggest that Twitter data analyzed with sentiment analysis better reflects the popular vote than the volume of messages. For further analysis, we compared the binary proportions of the positive sentiment data. Having a Mean Absolute Error (MAE) of 3.11% and a 1.7% point-bias, the Twitter activity analyzed with the proprietary sentiment analysis was within the same proximity as public opinion polls that accurately reflected the popular vote.

Suggested Citation

Washington, Anne and Parra, Fernando and Thatcher, Jason Bennett and LePrevost, Kyle and Morar, David, What is the Correlation between Twitter, Polls and the Popular Vote in the 2012 Presidential Election? (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2300363

Anne Washington (Contact Author)

NYU Steinhardt ( email )

New York University
Steinhardt School
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

Fernando Parra

University of Texas at El Paso - College of Business Administration ( email )

500 West University
El Paso, TX 79968-0545
United States

Jason Bennett Thatcher

Clemson University ( email )

Kyle LePrevost

Clemson University ( email )

No Address Available

David Morar

Elliott School of International Affairs ( email )

2201 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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