Election 2012

I have been avidly watching election-related tweets yesterday and today. In both my classes today, I included discussions of tweets which either mentioned Obama, Romney, #election2012, and #election2012 America. The latter was particularly useful in highlighting tweets from non-American tweeters. Supporting the idea that Twitter functions like a diary or chronicle of one’s daily life are tweets which inclue “I just voted”, “just voted”, or “on my way to vote”.

Some interesting tweets which emerged from both my searching and that by students are:

  • NBC confirms a voting machine malfunctioning, changing votes for Obama to Romney in Pennsylvania

[Unsurprisingly, tweets recirculating news stories have been extremely popular today. Engagement by the public with news or even with campaigns via social media is noted as significant by Himelboim (2012)]

  •  if Obama loses because y’all dumbass are posting your ballots on social networks, your ass shouldn’t have the privileges to vote!

[The interesting trend of voters using their smart phones to take pictures of their ballots and post them on social media supports arguments in the literature which discuss how ubiquitous computing makes it possible for us to increasingly publish things which are normally very much in our private sphere. Instagramming one’s ballot seems particularly popular!]

  •  ⬜ Romney ⬜ Obama ✔ Glitter, Victoria’s Secret, and tiaras.

[The ‘third option’ genre of tweets has been used frequently within the #election2012 hash tag]

  •  I’ve been praying all day for a #Romney victory

[Tweets in the hash tags provide empirical support that the religious right is actively engaged within Twitter. This supports findings in the literature of the conservative movement’s use of digital media technologies (Bennett 2012)]

[Interestingly, Paul McCartney’s tweet was the most retweeted #election2012 tweet at one point today (#beatles #ukinvasion) ;)]

  • Whether you vote Republican, Democrat or 3rd Party, you should still celebrate with @(name of brand) #America #election2012

[Unsurprisingly, lots of businesses, brands, and bands are using the #election2012 hash tag for promotion purposes. The use of hash tag manipulation is discussed by Page (2012)]


1.            Page, R., The linguistics of self-branding and micro-celebrity in Twitter: The role of hashtags. Discourse & Communication, 2012. 6(2): p. 181-201.

2.            Bennett, W.L., The Personalization of Politics: Political Identity, Social Media, and Changing Patterns of Participation. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 2012. 644(1): p. 20-39.

3.            Himelboim, I., et al., Social Media and Online Political Communication: The Role of Interpersonal Informational Trust and Openness. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 2012. 56(1): p. 92-115.

While I was writing my book about Twitter (Twitter: Social Communication in the Twitter Age), I took an interest in tracking the US Republican primary as it was being constructed within Twitter. Last year, I started collecting all geo-located tweets  (tweets with location information turned on) for the 50 most populous urban American cities (according to U.S. Census statistics ). Because of the geographical richness of this data set, I thought it would be a perfect source to use to study twitter activity surrounding the US Republican primary. Working with  Alexander Gross and Stephanie Bond, I designed and developed a tool to visualize this specific geographically-anchored landscape.

The 2012 US presidential election provided another opportunity to leverage this data. Twitter has been extremely active in terms of election-related discourse. Our Election 2012 Twitter Visualization Tool uses emergent big data research methodologies to visualize the election. The visualization tool has been optimized for the Safari browser (and is known to have some issues in other browsers).

The goal of our research is to explore urban American responses to the 2012 presidential candidates on Twitter. In order to create a representative sample of tweets from urban centers in the United States, we collected tweets from Twitter by location. We took the 50 most populous American cities according to the U.S. Census and instructed Twitter to send us tweets that were within 7-12km of the locations of these cities.

Our software collects these geo-located tweets and uses the data to chart the relative buzz surrounding candidates in the 2012 presidential election. The tool charts the relative popularity of each primary candidate as measured by the number of tweets which we have collected over the last 24 hours and identified with a particular candidate. For a tweet to be counted as referring to a particular candidate, the tweet must contain the candidate’s first and last name separated by a space e.g. “Mitt Romney” or the candidate’s official campaign twitter account name or the account name eg @mittromney. A single mention as reported by the chart’s dynamic legend is equivalent to one tweet which contains one of the candidate names. Tweets which contain more than one candidate name will be counted as mentions for both candidates. These stringent rules prevent unecessary possible over counting of tweets for a candidate. Though the frequency of the tweet count in our visualization is low because of this, the data collected is very robust. Specifically, all tweets visualized do refer to Obama or Romney.

Please visit the tool’s webpage at my lab, the Social Network Innovation Lab, for more detailed information.