Can Twitter predict the outcome of the US election[?] If our results are anything to go by then Barack Obama will be reelected. The data presented below are the result of some research that Adham Tamer, Ning Wang, Scott Hale and I (Mark Graham) carried out in order to see how visible both major presidential candidates are on Twitter.
We collected about 30 million geocoded tweets between Oct 1 and Nov 1 and pulled out all references to Obama and Romney. [. . .]
We see that if the election were decided purely based on Twitter mentions, then Obama would be re-elected. In fact, the only states that Romney would win are Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Vermont. Romney also wins in the District of Colombia (we unfortunately didn't collect data on Alaska or Hawaii).
However, this drubbing that Romney receives in the Twitter electoral college belies the close nature of the final popular (Twitter) vote. There are a total of 132,771 tweets mentioning Obama and 120,637 mentioning Romney, giving Obama only 52.4% of the total (and Romney 47.6%). A breakdown that is remarkably similar to current opinion polls.
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What do these data really tell us? I doubt that they will accurately predict that Obama will win in Texas or that Romney will win in Massachusetts. But they do certainly reveal that many internet users in California, Texas, and much of the country prefer talking about Obama than Romney. We would need to employ sentiment analysis or manually read a large number of the election-related tweets in order to figure out whether we are seeing messages of support or more critical posts.
As people mentioned on Facebook when I shared the link, the Twitter-using population isn't representative of the general American population. For starters, it's substantially younger.