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Will Twitter Predict the Election?

A new polling index developed by Twitter and Topsy provides a faster method of measuring public sentiment.

by / August 2, 2012

In the world of shaking hands and kissing babies, a politician's TPI rating may soon become an important number. The Twitter Political Index is a method of measuring public sentiment about the two presidential candidates that draws from the social media site's 400 million daily tweets.

With help from Topsy Analytics, Twitter compares tweets mentioning Obama or Romney with tweets about other topics to determine the candidates' popularity, similar to a Relative Strength Index (RSI) value in the stock market.

The project is meant to supplement, not replace, conventional methods of measuring public opinion, according to Twitter. "It is a collection of key words, phrases, and patterns that is ever expanding what is positive and negative," said Adam Sharp, the leader of Twitter's government, news, and social innovation team, reported NextGov.

While the TPI often foreshadows Gallup's rolling three-day polling sample, some incidents have muddied the tweet pool, producing skewed results. NextGov reports an example: Following August 2011 discussions about the federal debt ceiling, for instance, President Obama called on his supporters to use Twitter to contact Congress about the issue, superficially inflating his TPI rating.

While not a perfect system, Sharp said, the TPI will be helpful to provide a fuller picture of the political landscape.

Check out your guy's TPI today on the Topsy Labs website.

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