August 26, 2011 / by Eric Forst

A July 15th poll conducted by Quinnipac University indicated that voters blame Bush over Obama 2-1 for the bad economy. The poll also found that 56% of American voters disapprove and just 38% approve with the way President Obama is handling the economy, but by 45% to 38% they trust the President more than congressional Republicans to handle the economy. So, there are some mixed signals in the polling data. How can the President know how voters really feel about his handling of the economy?

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the data we’ve collected over the past thirty days and see exactly what people are saying. So, I created a search in Visible Intelligence that returns all the posts and comments with “double-dip recession” or “another recession” in them. By filtering to all the posts in which social media authors expressed negative sentiment, I was able to get a read on how Obama fares relative to Republicans, Bush and other terms. This is the list of the Most Prominent Terms from more than 1,300 negative posts and Tweets collected between July 23 and August 23:

 

 

The list shows that “Obama” is more prominent than “Republicans” and even more prominent than “unemployment” in negative sentiment posts about a double-dip recession. “President” is also a Most Prominent Term in the negative posts, but “Democrats” are much farther down the list than “Republicans.” This could bode well for Democrats’ chances in Congressional elections next year and these results correlate to findings in an August 25th poll released by the Associated Press, which shows that voters disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling the economy more than they disapprove of the way Congressional Democrats are handling it. The new poll also shows that disapproval of Obama’s handling of the economy has increased since the Quinnipac poll, and they continue to show that voters blame Bush by 51% and Obama by only 31%.

Another search in Visible Intelligence on the “US Economy” reveals a sentiment bias similar to the “Double-Dip” posts:

 

 

Negative sentiment is more strongly associated with “Obama” than with “Bush” or with “Congress,” contradicting the findings in the poll. A recent study shows that in the 2010 California gubernatorial election between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, polling data under-represented the significance of “Nanny-Gate” when compared to social media data. While Visible’s data may indicate more negative sentiment toward the president than the polls, it is possible that our analysis of the social data more accurately reflects voter sentiment than the polling data, as it has no survey-bias. We will continue to track and compare our data with the polling data and report our findings in this blog.

Ultimately, a deeper analysis is required to understand the exact correlations between this prominent terms lists and negative sentiment toward the President. For example, the term “double-dip recession” is inherently more negative than “US economy” and further research is needed to understand the extent to which social media queries bias search results. But, we do find a strong correlation of “Obama” to negative posts about the US economy. We know Obama is more strongly correlated to negative sentiment, because when you look at the top terms from the neutral posts about the US Economy for the past 7 days, “Obama” is not on the list. The bottom line is that the signal from social media indicates the president is in trouble and that he is more strongly correlated to negative sentiment about the US economy than any other politician, candidate, party or branch of government.

Social Media sentiment analysis can act as an early warning signal and help a candidate understand what the public thinks in real-time, before the polls come out. Candidate Obama should pay attention to the social media conversations about the pressing issues of the day and make sure he understands exactly how voters feel about his policies in relation to current events. This way, he will be less likely to receive an “October Surprise” and his campaign will be able to quickly adjust its message to address events as they unfold.

Tags : social media

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