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3rd Story
Forget the polls! Just look at Twitter

Forget the polls! Just look at Twitter

The world is letting its views be known 140 characters at a time.

A recent study shows that the views expressed in daily Twitter tweets correlates with data gathered by trusted polling companies such as Gallup and the Index of Consumer Sentiment. The Carnegie Mellon University computer science students who conducted the research said Twitter posts could be a "cheap, rapid means of gauging public opinion," according to an Ars Technica website article.

In the study, the Pittsburgh-based school's researchers collected 1 billion tweets posted between 2008 and 2009. These were analyzed for topic and whether they were positive or negative. This data was compared to ICS and Gallup information from the same time periods. ICS and the Gallup polls had an 86 per cent correlation between them, while the Twitter correlation was 72 and 79 per cent to the well-established polling companies.

However, there are concerns about using Twitter for taking the nation or world's temperature on a specific topic. For one, should retweets and news headlines be counted as opinions?

As well, there is the concern about how different countries use Twitter. During its national election, the Netherlands was a tweeting nation, according to a Radio Netherlands Worldwide website. Reportedly, there were about three times in a 10 day period where Dutch tweets dominated the social networking site - even though only about one per cent of Twitter users are from the Netherlands.

"Many people here in the Netherlands are into twittering about politics," Reinout de Vries of the Politiek Online research organization was quoted as saying on the RNW website. "Abroad you get a lot of social twittering, like ‘I'm having a beer, will you join me.' In the Netherlands it's more about elections, and Twitter. It happens during each and every debate. So, apparently we're political twitterers. Kind of nice, really."

As far as judging public opinion, Twitter might have its advantages as users seem to move forward to tweet about new topics faster than the mainstream media. According to a Pew Research Center study, only five per cent of the top five stories on Twitter remain among the top news after a week. In the mainstream press, the study showed that 50 per cent of the top stories remained there a week later.

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