While discussing a Businessweek article assessing online response to health care reform — a response which has been heavily critical — the panel at Morning Joe wasn't worried. After all, host Joe Scarborough pointed out, people on Twitter also hated his salmon-colored pants. His "gay pants." Ergo: Obamacare will be fine, apparently.
The article, by Businessweek's Joshua Green, used analysis of Twitter sentiment from Kantar Media's CMAG as its focal point.
Bottom line: Most people hate it. “Conservative critics of President Obama’s signature healthcare law dominated Twitter conversation about the issue for the 30-day period ending August 4,” Elizabeth Wilner of CMAG wrote in an analysis of the newest findings.
And then the caveats start flowing. There's the fact that the tweets included in the analysis were heavily from the South, Mid-Atlantic region, and Midwest — areas not exactly known for their robust support of the president. Since most of the programs haven't gone into effect yet, it's unlikely that those who've seen a lot of benefit from them would be very vocal online. Green also points out that even when Twitter is flooded with opinion on a subject, that doesn't necessarily mean that the public at large is. His example? Sharknado, an example he repeated during the Morning Joe segment.
When Fortune editor Leigh Gallagher took advantage of the conversation to point out that the Affordable Care Act does face real challenges, ones the president is urgently trying to avoid, it seemed the Twitter part of the segment had mercifully gone by the wayside. Until Gallagher made another good point: Maybe Twitter isn't a great way of judging support.
And then this happened.
Scarborough: If it's positive I believe it; if it's negative, I don't. I always felt badly about myself on Twitter because people are so negative on both sides until on the 4th of July I tweeted positive quotes about America, from JFK to Ronald Reagan to George Washington to Carl Sandberg — and I was uniformly bashed by both sides. And I said, you know, if America fares that badly on Twitter, I'm okay.
Thomas Roberts: But Twitter loved your salmon pants.
Scarborough: They love my salmon pants. No doubt about that. I would call them "Nantucket Red" but I found out this past week from Joy Behar and [conservative blog] Townhall that Nantucket Red is actually a gay color. I found that to be fascinating. And Townhall's big headline: "Joe Scarborough, colon, I like gay pants." So whatever. It's fascinating.
Roberts: I like gay pants too, Joe, so I'm with you.
Those pants made their appearance on an episode of The View earlier this week, as seen in the image above. Let's recap the role they play in the current political discussion, then.
- Obamacare faces opposition.
- Some of that discussion is on Twitter.
- Twitter sentiment is not necessarily a reliable indicator of public sentiment, because it also hates Joe Scarborough's gay pants.
As Obama prepares for his upcoming Massachusetts vacation, look to see if some "Vineyard Green" slacks make it into his suitcase. If they do, remember the message he's sending: I support affordable healthcare. The signal couldn't be more clear.
Photo: An example of pro-Obamacare pants. (AP)