Republicans, and in particular those identfied as being with the Tea Party, were more effective in using the social media juggernaut Twitter during the 2010 election cycle, according to a study released a couple of weeks ago by the University of Michigan.
The study looked at more than 460,000 tweets by 687 candiates running for Congressional or gubernatorial seats over a three-year period leading up to 2010 elections. Researchers from the university's School of Information and College of Engineering found that conservatives--who coincidentally made major gains across the country in 2010--were more focused on their election message. The tweeted an average of 723 times, but those with the Tea Party averaged more than 900 messages.
“The conservative candidates---Republicans and Tea Party members---definitely used Twitter more visibly and showed a more coherent set of messages and topics,” said Eytan Adar, assistant professor in the School of Information and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, in a press release. “They also followed each other much more closely. I think it’s fair to say they were much more cohesive in a lot of ways and at the end of the day that makes for a stronger campaign.”
Democrats, researchers said, posted less frequently (averaging 551 tweets) and their topics varied more widely.
The study also examined whether a candidate using Twitter had a better chance of being elected. Researchers said posting a massive number of tweets didn't guarantee results.
"We found that candidates who are close to the middle of the network, and the middle of what is being discussed by everyone are more likely to be elected," said Lada Adamic, associate professor in the School of Information and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, in a press release.
Adamic says the work also sheds light on how a candidate's positions correspond to his or her likelihood of being elected.
"This has been attempted in the past by looking at, for example, a candidate's past voting record or their responses to standardized surveys," Adamic said. "However, this data was frequently incomplete. It is interesting to see how candidate's activity on Twitter is connected with election outcomes."