Can Tweets Predict Elections?

One research study says the candidate who generates more Twitter buzz during a congressional election may be more likely to win.

by / August 15, 2013
Flickr/OfficialWhiteHousePhoto by Pete Souza

Is Twitter the new crystal ball for predicting election wins? According to a new study, candidates mentioned more than their opponents via Twitter leading up to an election are more likely to win a congressional race.

Conducted by researchers from Indiana University, the study analyzed more than 537 million tweets posted between August and the beginning of November in 2010, in conjunction with the 406 congressional elections held that year.

According to the study, the percentage of Republican candidate name mentions correlates with the Republican vote margin in the subsequent election. That holds true even when taking into account incumbency, district partisanship, media coverage of the race, time and demographic variables.

Overall, candidates who were mentioned more than their opponents on Twitter prior to the election were more likely to perform better during the congressional race.

The nature of the tweet was not included in the research, however. Positive versus negative or flattering versus unflattering tweets had no bearing on the results of the study.

“The relative share of attention compared to the opponent is all that is needed,” wrote researchers Joseph DiGrazia, Karissa McKelvey, Johan Bollen and Fabio Rojas. “This is evidence for the conventional wisdom that ‘all publicity is good publicity.’”