Who needs polls? A study published Monday reports that campaigns could use Twitter to successfully predict the winner of most races, findings that might bolster the social media service's already robust political presence.
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The key measure, researchers from Indiana University found, was a candidate's "tweet share," the percentage of total tweets about a race that mention them. The more often a candidate is mentioned on Twitter relative to their opponent, the study reported, the greater their chance for victory.
The findings were comprehensive: An analysis of tweets from the 2010 midterm elections found the data correctly predicted the winner in 404 of the 406 House races.
"We plotted it and thought, 'Holy moly, it was a very strong correlation,' " said Fabio Rojas, a sociology professor at Indiana and one of the study's coauthors. He added that preliminary analysis of last year's congressional elections show similar results.
The findings rest on two important points: The raw number of tweets about a candidate doesn't matter, and neither does whether the tweets are positive or negative. Rojas and his colleagues, who collected hundreds of thousands of tweets from the 2010 race, initially measured the total number of times the candidate was mentioned, but the findings failed to correlate with which candidate won. Well-known candidates, like Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., or candidates from bigger and wealthier districts would inherently receive more attention.