Is the importance of social media over emphasized in the Republican presidential race?

Where the US republican presidential race is concerned, The Twitter sentiment is damp and candidates with the most supporters and talk-ability are out of the race. How reflective is the Twitterverse of the real world?

The US Republican presidential race is heating up with Mitt Romney seemingly leading the pack. And as social media is heralded as the new power behind world politics, we decided to take a look at how well the candidates are faring on Twitter, and to what extent the cyber discussion is impacting the trends and potentially the results of the most powerful race on Earth.

We examined all tweeting activities from the 16th of 21st of March using the office Twitter account of present / past candidates (@MittRomney, @RickSantorum, @newtgingrich, @RonPaul, @THEHermanCain, @GovGaryJohnson, @GovernorPerry, @MicheleBachmann) including wannabe candidate Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA). In total, our twitter probe collected 95,470 tweets. Tweets in English were by far the most dominant (96%) with Spanish just over 1%.

We enriched the data with:

  • Sentiment rating to determine whether the tweets are positive, neutral or negative. We used two algorithms.
  • Viralheat – algorithm tends to favour positive and negative tweets
  • Twitter Sentiment – algorithm tends to be more neutral
  • Tweeter Influence, which measures measure the tweeter’s reach and influence out of a scale of 100, with 10 being low influence and 100 very influential

We compiled the analytics dashboards using Tableau Software’s visualization capabilities and Albatrosa’s own social media probe. Please find below a summary of our analysis. We welcome your comments and insight. We trimmed some of the data (including tweets) to keep the file size down. If you would like the full analysis, email us at sales(at) You can download your own version of Tableau by clicking here.

If you believe Twitter, @RickSantorum has the most talkability, with a share of 36% of total tweets. @MittRomney comes second with 31% and @newgingrich is at 19%. All other candidates are in the single digits.

Yet, @newtgingrich is the most retweeted, with 50%, while @RickSantorum and @MittRomney messages were retweeted at only 30%.

The average sentiment across all candidates remained fairly flat throughout the period: average 0.37, (range -1 to 1 with -1 being negative, 0 neutral, and 1 positive). This means that tweeters have been consistent with their sentiment and there wasn’t any major event that shifted opinion. @GovGaryJohnson topped most positive tweets with an average of 0.67 and @newtgingrich at the other end of the scale at 0.16.

56k of the tweets (58%) had a positive sentiment vs 39k negative. That said, tweeters with the most influence expressed more negative sentiment (29.69) than positive (29.34)

We examined influencers and damagers who had over 5 tweets positive and negative sentiment respectively using Tweeter Influence, which measures the tweeter’s reach and impact. Interestingly, all key influencers are media personalities, the top 3 influencers being @Piersmorgan, @CNN and @CNNbrk. The top damager Tweeter is @JohnKingCNN.

@RickSantorum has the highest number of advocates and damager (850 vs 230) followed by @MittRomney (800 vs 140). This is not a surprise considering that they both command the highest number of tweets.

In percentage terms, Ron Paul has the highest number of advocates (150) to tweeters (5237 or 2.86%). This compares with @RickSantorum (2.4%) and @MittRomney (2.7%).
Scatter diagram gives us a perspective of the tweet distribution across three measures – total tweets, average sentiment and average influence. High influencers hardly tweet. There is an even scatter of tweeters by influence and sentiment which explains the flat averages.

So what can we conclude from all of this? To recap, Ron Paul has the most vocal supporters and Rick Santorum is talked about the most, with more negative sentiment than others, which could explain his decision to “suspend” his bid for the nomination. Yet overall the sentiment is quite tame and Mitt Romney is still leading the polls outside of Twitter. This may mean that social media is not yet a major force in terms of deciding the winner of the republican race. We all know how well Obama did in social media four years ago and he has already kicked off his campaign online; it remains to be seen how decisive the influence of social media will be in the final elections.

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