A new study put together by researchers at the University of
Michigan suggests that during the 2010 midterm elections Republican candidates
used social media "more effectively, conveying a coherent message" and
maintaining a wide ranging collection of connections on social networking
platforms such as Twitter.
The study (PDF), entitled "The Party is Over Here:
Structure and Content in the 2010 Election," found that self-described "Tea
Party" candidates showed a level of cohesiveness and familiarity with social
media that served them well in fueling the Republican takeover of the House
Researchers "incorporated structural and content analysis,
and demonstrated the utility of using language modeling to estimate group
cohesiveness as well as divergence of individuals." The model created by the
team behind the report was able to correctly predict the winner of each House,
Senate, and gubernatorial contest in 2010 with an 88% level of accuracy.
some fairly advanced metrics the team also took a look at not only what
candidates were the most talkative but also what exactly it was they
were talking about.
According to the report, some of the most popular topics of
conversation amongst Democrats were jobs and education. Republicans, meanwhile,
seemed to focus on spending and the budget. And the Tea Party, you ask? Well
the Tea Party seemed most interested in Barney Frank and the words "conservative"
and "tea party." Hey, we never said they were subtle.
Hashtags were also examined; those little pound sign bearing
bits of self-branding that help make instant internet memes of just about
anything. Democrats seemed to stick with "#p2" which denotes so-called "Progressives
2.0." Both Republicans and Tea Partiers were fans of the ubiquitous "#TCOT" for
"Top Conservatives on Twitter," which was interestingly enough the second most
popular hashtag amongst the Democratic opposition.
The entire report is a rather interesting in-depth look at
how social media and the unique new language it has spawned are affecting the
outcome of elections. After all, a few short years ago "hashtag" wasn't even a