Who Needs Polls? We Have Twitter

Fabio Rojas reveals a new study showing social media predicts outcomes
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2013 1:16 PM CDT
Who Needs Polls? We Have Twitter
This file screenshot shows the "Twitter Index," a 2012-era Twitter product that rated how much chatter the presidential candidates were getting on social media.   (Twitter)

Bad news, professional pollsters: Twitter is about to put you out of work. Or at least, that's what sociologist Fabio Rojas is predicting, based on a study he helped conduct. The study found that "Twitter discussions are an unusually good predictor of US House elections," he writes in the Washington Post. They randomly sampled 542,969 tweets that mentioned a House candidate ahead of the 2010 elections. In 404 of the 406 races they looked at, the winning candidate was the one mentioned in the most tweets.

It didn't matter whether those tweets were positive or negative. "If people must talk about you, even in negative ways, it is a signal that a candidate is on the verge of victory," Rojas hypothesizes. This insight will have broad-reaching implications, particularly in nations where polling is difficult or suppressed. "As long as citizens have access to the Internet, they can talk about their views." Underfunded US candidates, meanwhile, can use social media monitoring rather than expensive polling. "Polls are no longer the only tool for forecasting elections. … Instead, all you will need is an app on your phone." (Read more Twitter stories.)

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