Reading the headlines and the fact that I’m an analytics geek, my answer at first is YES!. I’m not quite sure what the information we will get out of it though. I’m not sure how reliable it will be.
Today in the news there are many stories about the new Twitter Political Index tracking the trends of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney sentiments on Twitter. The even put it under the address elections.twitter.com. The goal is to track real-time sentiment over the candidates.
There are a few problems with this though. We are going to be talking in generalizations, so please don’t get bent out of shape if you don’t fit into the stereotype. Obama’s core audience is much more twitter savvy. He used the medium phenomenally during the last election and has only grown with it. He also attracts a younger generation. The younger generation is more likely to use Twitter. Finally he is the darling of the tech crowd. The tech crowd is much more likely to use Twitter than joe six-pack.
Mitt Romney’s base is an older crowd (though I’m getting closer and closer to that age group). While some of them use computers, they are less likely to live on them. Romney has tried to seem cool and hip with Twitter. There are even stories that he bought follower to seem even cooler.
The advantage to Romney in the sentiment is that Obama is the sitting commander and chief. People are much more likely to gripe about a sitting president than a candidate. If they haven’t filtered out the term Obamacare from the results, things will look even worse for Obama. You have realized that few people who actually support the health reform refer to it as Obamacare.
We can now move on to a pure follower count (and Romney’s may not be true people). Obama has ten million followers. Not all of his follower are US citizens, but we will assume eighty percent are. Romney has eight hundred thousand. This gives Obama a lead of ten times as many people liking him enough to follow compared to Romney.
In the end these might balance each other out. Obama has more followers, but as president gets more criticism. Twitter may actually filter out people who are not located within the United States. Romney might skate up purely on people using Twitter not being interested enough to bash him as much as Obama. Does it balance out? I’m not sure.
That’s the real problem with partisan politics and when one side uses a tool much more than the other. Sure both sides can get their people to bomb Twitter with support for their side and negativity for the other. This once again will favor one side on the sentiment page, unless the other side does it also.
We have entered an age where it isn’t enough to win public sentiment. The candidates must win them on all fronts. This entails winning enough states to get all the electoral votes, getting enough votes to win the popular vote, and winning the social networks. Twitter followers and Facebook likes are the new popular vote. In the next election if someone wins the election that don’t win Twitter and Facebook, I expect CNN to report “OMG HAX!!!!!!”.