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Twitter Buzz As an Election Predictor

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the popularity-contest dept.

Social Networks 55

Capt.Albatross writes "A study presented at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting suggests that simply comparing the frequency with which the candidates' names are mentioned in tweets can predict the result of elections almost as well as conventional polls, even without considering the sentiment (for or against the named candidate) of the messages. Furthermore, the correlation seems strongest in close elections. Additional commentary can be found at the Wall Street Journal and from Indiana University."

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New election strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44564451)

Don't hold any conferences, just get some bots to tweet the candidate's name.

Election win guaranteed.

Isn't it kind of Dada? (2)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year ago | (#44564531)

That is [] only useful as long as no one bothered to notice this point consciously?

Re:New election strategy (1)

weakref (2554172) | about a year ago | (#44564649)

Correlation does not imply causation. []

Re:New election strategy (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44565387)

Correlation does not imply causation.

But in this case, correlation can lead to causation.

1. Send lots of tweets to simulate popularity.
2. Get publicity for being "in the lead".
3. Get more attention from journalists, debate organizers, and potential voters.
4. Get donations from special interests that want to back a "winner".
5. Profit!

Re:New election strategy (2)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#44565835)

Correlation does not imply causation.

Obligatory []

Re:New election strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44567235)

Correlation does not imply causation

Neither does it rule it out. Of four possible reasons for a correlation between a and b:

A causes B
B causes A
A and B are both caused by C

Re:New election strategy (1)

Caesar Tjalbo (1010523) | about a year ago | (#44566737)

You don't even need bots, just post a few pics of your boner.

Mere correlation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44564457)

Now if you could prove that tweeting about a candidate indicates that the person will actually vote in the upcoming election I'd be more impressed.

Re:Mere correlation (1)

sycodon (149926) | about a year ago | (#44564639)

And...Twitter being the sole domain of the Narcissists, I don't think it is anywhere near a representative sample of the voting population.

Re:Mere correlation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44565151)

I don't know; idiots use Twitter and idiots (unfortunately) vote.

Re:Mere correlation (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about a year ago | (#44568673)

Considering that 45% of Americans under age 35 turn out to vote and 70% of people over 65 vote, there is a high likelihood that a person tweeting about a candidate *isn't* going to vote for that person. And that the people that are going to vote have never seen Twitter before.

Most of those are bots. (4, Insightful)

stewsters (1406737) | about a year ago | (#44564487)

Google "buy twitter followers" and you will see a lot of companies dealing with this. Most of the time when you get random followers who just tweet the same format of things, its because they are bots.

Whichever candidate can afford hire the most companies to have bots repost what they are tweeting have the highest chance of winning. It all comes down to who has the most money for advertising, same as always.

Re:Most of those are bots. (1)

Capt.Albatross (1301561) | about a year ago | (#44564811)

Google "buy twitter followers" and you will see a lot of companies dealing with this.

The WSJ article mentions 'promoted' tweets as well as tweets from the candidates' organizations, and says the researchers found that they tended to cancel out (this also suggests they were not being excluded from the study.) This study might provoke attempts to game future measurements, but fortunately, this is only about prediction, not actual voting (unless correlation actually does imply causation in this case, but there is no suggestion that it does.)

Re:Most of those are bots. (2)

umghhh (965931) | about a year ago | (#44565079)

now replace the other side i.e. politicians with bots and the whole system may even start working efficiently.

Re:Most of those are bots. (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44565143)

Speaking of bots... I'd like to propose a new flying hunter-killer robot that tracks down people who submit election-related news when there is no election happening in the next month . By all means, go bat-shit crazy about the election when it's actually timely... but right now, nobody gives a fuck. No really: The number of fucks given counter hit zero almost a year ago. The care-o-meter in Carealot is pointing straight down. Tenderheart is cutting his own wrists right now and sobbing. Grumpybear finally feels validated. Can I be any more clear on this lack of fucks given?

The media wants us to care about an election that's three years from now. This is like trying to start the Christmas season in July. Mind you, the Christmas season currently expanding like an unemployed American living in a McDonald's... but even rabid christians and retailers hoping for some dollars for jesus hasn't been able to fatten it up to the point where it's eaten adjacent seasons.

Now, let's talk about those hunter-killer robots. That is relevant to nerds. Especially snarky and annoyed ones.

Re:Most of those are bots. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#44569195)

even rabid christians and retailers hoping for some dollars for jesus

Firstly, Christians aren't clamoring for a longer Christmas season. Most Christians I know complain about how long it is. Secondly, retailers don't give two shits about Jesus, they worship money. Their holiday, when they worship THEIR god, is called "Black Friday".

Limitations (3, Insightful)

kubajz (964091) | about a year ago | (#44564501)

Yes, perhaps a good predictor now, but only up to the moment when results of these polls are widely publicized... and some company offers to manipulate the trending words for a price?

Re:Limitations (1)

telchine (719345) | about a year ago | (#44564633)

and some company offers to manipulate the trending words for a price?

Would there really be a market for manipulating an opinion poll? Having the measure of people's voting rigged won't change the election.

If there is a market for this then maybe there's a market for selling rigged weighing scales to fat people so that the scales say they've lost a pound every time they weigh themselves.

Re:Limitations (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#44564699)

Would there really be a market for manipulating an opinion poll?

Yes. There are more than enough people in the world who do things because "everyone who is anyone is doing it".

Re:Limitations (1)

Capt.Albatross (1301561) | about a year ago | (#44564947)

Would there really be a market for manipulating an opinion poll?

Yes. There are more than enough people in the world who do things because "everyone who is anyone is doing it".

True, but in other circumstances, such as a race that is polling as unexpectedly close, it might provoke more supporters of the underdog to vote. I am certain that the questions of how to game the predictions, when, and in which direction, are being actively studied.

It should be noted that in the last U.S. presidential election, partisan predictions did not seem to affect the result, and Nate Silver became famous for accurately calling it by being as objective as he could.

Re:Limitations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44567351)

Would there really be a market for manipulating an opinion poll?

Yes. There are more than enough people in the world who do things because "everyone who is anyone is doing it".

You mean like most users of facebook and twitter. I've got no use for them myself.

Because Spam = Reality ??? (2)

Salgak1 (20136) | about a year ago | (#44564553)

Mind you, this is cheap way of astro-turfing [] . But beyond the most superficial analysis, astro-turfing fails quickly. especially where reputation is considered. Create a couple of thousand of twitter bots ? Easy. Getting real people to follow them ? Hard. . .

Re:Because Spam = Reality ??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44564835)

What about creating a bunch of fake votes given the current black hole your vote goes into? Should we have an end to end user verifiable crypto voting system?

Likely a "Red Herring" so to speak. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44564601)

My wife worked for an online "Marketing Sentiment" company, and she came up with the idea of trying to predict the American Idol winners using a very similar technique about 4-5 years ago (I forget exactly).

She found that it showed increased "excitement" in general terms, and generally there was a correlation with increased voting on American Idol, but it did not accurately predict the specific winners each week.

It sometimes seemed to work, though, so she (and others) messed with the algorithm quite a bit and tried to make it work. I.e. wasted a lot of time on it. Maybe someone with a more scientific approach would have succeeded, but the few times she had me look at the raw data (even with sentiment included) suggested to me a non-obvious relationship, and maybe not a predictive one.

Erich Boleyn

Really? (2)

mmcxii (1707574) | about a year ago | (#44564629)

How's that Twitter thing working out for Anthony Weiner?

Talk to me when... (1)

djupedal (584558) | about a year ago | (#44564685)

...we can vote in elections via Twitter.

on the other hand (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | about a year ago | (#44564695)

following events on Twitter is a blast. I did not watch the presidential debates, I just followed the twitter hash-tag. It is like watching a movie audience where you can see the film or even hear it, you just have to judge what is happening by the audience's reaction. It is much more revealing than you would imagine. For example, you can see who is going to win the debate 15 minutes into the debate. The dynamic is established that quickly. And there are surprises. For example, when "binders full of women" suddenly started showing up on my feed I thought, "Romney could not possibly have said anything so bird brained." but he did. Twitter is my all time favorite way to follow public events.

i can totally see this happening (1)

ClassicASP (1791116) | about a year ago | (#44564697)

successful twitter campaigns will increase voter turnout in the voting polls (for both parties). the voting booths and locations will not be equipped well enough to handle the normal volume of voter turnout because most of the sheeple are used to staying home rather than actually taking the time to vote. they'll show up and thousands of democrats will find that they should have registered to vote but didn't and so now they cant, or else they will have registered but some republican somewhere in the chain of communication will have conveniently forgotten to process their paperwork. then there will be angry "mobs" all fuelled by twitter, so of course now we'll have to censor it, and so on and so forth.....

Link to the study? (1)

gwstuff (2067112) | about a year ago | (#44564759)

The pretext makes for good media fodder, so it's hard to judge the plausibility of the results without looking at the actual study. Couldn't find it in the Washington Post article or through a quick search. A few questions that come to mind..

- How many elections were studied? If it's a small number, then are the models overtrained? It's easy to come up with a model that connects two data sets if the data sets are known !
- Are "negative" tweets distinguished from positive ones in some way? If people dislike a candidate then they are probably as likely to post on them. e.g. try running this model on Donald Trump when he was talking about getting into the 2012 race. If you could distinguish "votes" and "antivotes" reasonably well then the idea should become more defensible.

Here come the paid DRONES (1)

Rubinhood (977039) | about a year ago | (#44564769)

Just great... Cue tens of thousands of paid campaign staff trying to boost their candidate's stats.

Google buy followers..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44564915)

hell, Obama bought followers.
Twitter data is shit.

Maybe if things were transparent.. (2)

brxndxn (461473) | about a year ago | (#44564971)

In the 2008 election, there was an enormous interest in Ron Paul. His google searches were higher than any other Republican nominee for most of 2007 and 2008. His Twitter interest was huge.. []

But, things are not transparent like that in the US. The mainstream media controlled the 'buzz' around Ron Paul and continued to act like he had little chance. The google trends and Twitter followers were ignored. The Internet buzz was discounted.

Maybe this article will be accurate in the future as the Internet takes over (and more so the Internet Generation takes over).. But if you tried to predict the last election based on Twitter, you would either be thinking there was massive fraud or there somehow was a huge amount of the US population that never heard of the Internet.

Re:Maybe if things were transparent.. (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year ago | (#44566293)

I am not sure I want the media to waste more time reporting on random crap on twitter. The few times I have watched TV news they like to spew lots of crap from their twitter feed up there now. It would be nice if they just went to the facts instead.

Your points on ignoring Paul during the GOP primaries was well noted. I noticed the same thing such as the radio news would mention every other candidate but him and would never report on percentages he got while mentioning every other candidate. At least if Paul had been the nomination the GOP would of had an engaging passionate candidate. Romney seemed like the GOP's version Al Gore in that regards.

Re:Maybe if things were transparent.. (1)

fluffy99 (870997) | about a year ago | (#44567433)

Nobody voted for Ron Paul because he wasn't expected to have a real chance at getting elected. Instead of voting for a losing proposition, most people voted against the republican or democrat that they didn't want to win.

Re:Maybe if things were transparent.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44567745)

Also known as Duverger's law [] . This is what will get real chance in politics in the US, moving to a something other than winner takes all.

Re:Maybe if things were transparent.. (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about a year ago | (#44568711)

The mainstream media controlled the 'buzz' around Ron Paul and continued to act like he had little chance.

They "acted like he had little chance" because he actually had no chance of winning. In 2012, Ron Paul had tons of mainstream media exposure. The more the general public found out about him and his policies, the worse his poll numbers got.

Re:Maybe if things were transparent.. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about a year ago | (#44569005)

But if you tried to predict the last election based on Twitter, you would either be thinking there was massive fraud or there somehow was a huge amount of the US population that never heard of the Internet.

In the 2012 election there WAS enormous fraud in the Republican primary/caucus process, most of it perpetrated by Romney's supporters against Ron Paul's. Some of it was violent. Much of it was transparent.

You don't hear about it in the mainstream media, left and right, which was blacking out anything related to Ron Paul. Look at archives of, or any of several other campaign-related sites, for info on such events, and links to both online reportage and the few places they were reported in mainstream - usually local - media outlets. They also changed the party rules (in a process that also involved massive cheating - including diverting several buses of delegates) to make it virtually impossible for future non-mainstream primary candidates to win the nomination.

The result was that a lot of Ron Paul supporters - along with other Republicans appalled by the behavior of Romney's supporters, stayed away from the general election in droves. (One opinion was that, if THIS is how they handled rule enforcement within the party, they couldn't be trusted to hold the reins of governmental power.) There are five states, with a total electoral vote that would have swung the election, where Romney lost by a margin substantially less than the number of primary votes for Ron Paul.

Romney's people could probably have won the nomination honestly (especially given the media blackout on Ron Paul). Had they done so, Romney would probably have been president now.

On the other hand, had Ron Paul won the nomination, he almost certainly would have defeated Obama.

What would Schrödinger have to say about this (1)

xerxesVII (707232) | about a year ago | (#44564981)

It seems that now that this has been observed, outcomes are bound to change.

Gee who knew (1)

gelfling (6534) | about a year ago | (#44565055)

that a large enough population of people who vote will actually say who they vote for given the chance and that result reflects reality.

Re:Gee who knew (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#44566903)

that a large enough population of people who vote will actually say who they vote for given the chance and that result reflects reality.

Last year I kept track of the Facebook Likes over time for our State gubernatorial primary candidates, and used both the final Like-count and the momentum to make a prediction: []

The actual vote was very close to prediction, especially considering the 'intelligencia' was predicting a very close race with opposite winners.

Re:Gee who knew (1)

gelfling (6534) | about a year ago | (#44568375)

Well sure - it's basically casting your polling net as wide as it can go and not filtering for any preconceived anything and not tossing out perceived outliers.

There is (1)

Pedestrianwolf (1591767) | about a year ago | (#44565135)

Not a single graph on any of those links...

This is the REAL reason for NSA full surveillance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44565147)

Despite the best efforts of those that own Slashdot to muddy the waters with the reports they promote, the story behind NSA spying is easy to understand. Spend a little time researching, and you'll find endless stories of ever improving predictions based on general data gathered from millions of users of the Internet. 'Twitter monitoring' is just the latest in a series of intelligence metrics that attempt to correlate user activity with particular opinions/positions held by the users in general.

NSA full surveillance operations have only ONE significant goal- namely to read the current mindset of the sheeple. Sure, particular enquirers may only care about sub-groups within the general population, but the same principle is obviously involved. The mainstream media, owned and controlled exclusively by those that define themselves as the 'elite', flood the world of the sheeple with propaganda messages (the owners of Slashdot obviously do the same here with their carefully chosen 'promotions'). The NSA then provides real time feedback as to the current levels of success for each propaganda program.

ALL massive intelligence operations witnessed across Human history (and this began even before writing was widespread) had this primary goal. The mob are the danger and the power source of any group that seek to rule over them.

This story on Slashdot is carefully crafted propaganda to make you think that you have choice in a national election. That Jack Johnson (with his 2 cent tax that "goes too far") is a different option to John Jackson (with his 2 cent tax that "doesn't go far enough"). Are you REALLY as thick as the owners of Slashdot assume? They don't care whether you vote for Clinton II or Bush III. They DO care if you don't vote, since not voting is a vote against their system, and if the participation in national elections falls too low, they cannot avoid having to change the system in a way that would be detrimental to their aims.

The NSA spying is not concerned with politics at the top- that is now fully controlled. It does have a concern about grass roots activism, and seeks to identify potential leaders/movements before they have public awareness, for co-opting or extermination.

So-called 'targeted advertising' flows from algorithms and methods Google crafts to allow the NSA to mine the Internet data it gathers. The ad stuff is just a useful commercial by-product. The real project seeks to identify and assign current thought positions to every individual that uses the Internet. Just like a polling company will phone an individual with a list of questions, but is NOT interested in that particular individual as an individual, but a representative member of a group. Every polling company will tell you that the more individuals you can track, and the more accurately/honestly they answer the questions, the better their predictions for the behaviour of the group.

Picture's worth a thousand words (1)

barlevg (2111272) | about a year ago | (#44565155)

God bless you, Washington Post. []

They actually went to the trouble of including a damn chart [] , which shows just how weak the correlation actually is.

Re:Picture's worth a thousand words (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year ago | (#44566375)

Yes it is a very weak correlation but it appears more asymptotic instead of linear to me anyway. Man I need to start gaming the system so I can be a presidential contender the next time around.

Weasel words alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44565203)

"strong correlation" " usually received a majority of the votes". Neither linked article mentions exact percentages for how accurate the data was overall.

captcha: unproven

"almost as well as convention polls" (1)

dirtyhippie (259852) | about a year ago | (#44565375)

Umm, no offense to our friends at Gallup and such, but shouldn't we set the bar a little higher?

Twitter Buzz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44565617)

I think someone told me that after the age of 30 people lose the ability to hear the buzzing. Having recently reached that age myself, I miss it slightly, though I can still hear it when the twits get close enough. Or maybe it was mosquitoes, I don't know, something annoying and useless.

Once it's reported, it's no longer valuable (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year ago | (#44565779)

...because the moment something like this is identified, it will be gamed.

Once you advertise it, you ruin it... (1)

eepok (545733) | about a year ago | (#44566297)

Ok, here's the thing. If Twitter use/mentions currently are a good predictor of election results, then that's cool. However, when you make it known, you invite a bunch of intentional skewers to the mix thus destroying the instrument.

Interesting paper on the topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44566439)

You should read this:

But less stronger results seems to be possible:

twitter under-represents the old ? (1)

vpness (921181) | about a year ago | (#44566689)

in an inverted fashion from how Nate Silver surfaced way back in 08 that under-representing cell-phone-only voters in polls under- represented the young, it'd seem that using twitter as a representative sampling will under-represent the old - e.g. those who vote more than the young do? []

Huh uh (1)

gx5000 (863863) | about a year ago | (#44567147)

Need any more proof your elections are rigged ?

Anthony Weiner (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44567733)

So, does that mean Anthony Weiner will win the election???

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