Until I decided that it wasn’t necessary to juggle two screens during last night’s speech by Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention, I was completely in a lather. The Tweetdeck app on my iPad just wouldn’t load, and so I was left with only the rousing cheers in the Time Warner Cable Arena (plug! I guess) to determine whether Clinton still had it.
That ain’t exactly a fair and balanced view of the political world.
But, then, frankly, neither would Twitter have been if I’d been able to load it, because my Twitter-verse is awash with lefties and righties. That is, people who live on both coasts -- and we know in which direction their tide routinely turns.
Which brings me to the fun, yet potentially misleading, metric, called the tweet per minute, or TPM (which, I should point out has nothing to do with that other TPM, Talking Points Memo).
Anyway, according to Twitter‘s @gov feed, our next president is … Michelle Obama!
And you thought it was Hillary. Ba-dum-bum.
Well, not exactly. But FLOTUS scored a high of 28,003 TPMs during her Tuesday night speech. Mitt Romney’s TPMs during his keynote were only about half of hers, at 14,289. Clint Eastwood and the empty chair? About 7,000 tweets per minute.
Former President Clinton reached a high of 22,087 toward the end of his speech last night. However, I’m wondering whether that Twitterburst was full of pleas for him to get off the stage already. He went on for 48 minutes – and, to cite another metric, that was only his third longest speech.
But what those raw Twitter statistics won’t tell you is who will win the presidency, not that the Twitter Political Index has those sorts of aspirations -- yet. It’s merely a fascinating snapshot of Twitter chatter, while at the same time being a wonderful illuminator of how oft-quoted social media stats don’t tell us much, beyond exactly what they tell us.
Let’s take Clint Eastwood’s odd stage moment as one example. Were his relatively low number of tweets an indication of:
a. The Republicans living up to their reputation as the party of angry old white men (who don’t tweet)? Surely, if this had happened during the Video Music Awards, the younger demo would have been all over it, instantly? Like that time Kanye West dissed Taylor Swift? Remembah?
b. The fact that it was just before Labor Day weekend?
c. People having difficulty tweeting and scratching their head at the same time?
But let’s shift the discussion over to something more substantive: the actual election, the one between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. We should harbor little doubt -- though I’ll revisit this tomorrow -- that Obama will out-TPM Romney when he gives his keynote tonight.
For one, according to the Twitter Political Index, Obama has 10 times as many followers as Romney, and his positive sentiment has doubled to a rating of 50 in the last day, while Romney’s has dropped by four points to a 10. But layering on that sentiment data only takes you a little bit deeper. It doesn’t predict who will win the election. It doesn’t tell you demographics, geography, or anything about the influence, or reach, of those who tweeted. It certainly doesn’t tell you if they are eligible to vote.
In fact, when you compare TPMs and sentiment analysis to more traditional data on the election, there’s a notable difference in how Dems are faring against the GOP. According to The New York Times Five Thirty-Eight blog, the race currently looks like this:
a. In the popular vote, Obama barely outpaces Romney, with 50% of the vote, to Romney’s 48.6% – in other words, a statistical dead heat.
b. In the electoral vote, Obama comes out somewhat more ahead, with 291.4 votes to 246.6 for Romney.
c. In an interesting stat called “chance of winning,” however, Obama is at 68.1%; Romney at 31.9%.
Which is a long way of saying that when it comes to having social analysis that matches real-world analysis, we aren’t there yet.
(I know that some of you out there are rolling your eyes at my quoting of that liberal rag, as some people view The New York Times -- but who I’m really quoting is the blog’s editor Nate Silver, who correctly predicted 49 of 50 states in 2008.)