Already condensed to 'Twindex', the new Twitter Political Index launched earlier today. The social media company is working alongside Topsy, a leading social data analysis firm, as well as two polling companies to calculate the results.
Adam Sharp is the Twitter executive in charge of Government, News and Social Innovation. On the company blog, he is enthusiastically supportive of the 'Twindex', citing it as "a new barometer for the election". According to Sharp, this is the first time anyone has been able to truly measure what people are actually talking about.
There are problems with putting too much stock in the results, however, that Sharp doesn't address on the blog.
Twitter demographics show that 45 percent of users are between the ages of 18 and 34. Census data on voting shows that more people above that age range actually vote that those that are within that age group.
Twitter demographics also show that roughly half of all members have no more than a high school level of education. Statistically, college educated people are at least four times as likely to vote.
Is the Twitter Political Index really going to give people a true snapshot of public sentiment if the member demographics are more likely non-voters? Does what a non-voter feel have any influence?
The data will update everyday at 5 p.m. (PST) after analyzing close to 400 million tweets. Tweets included in the mix are only those that use the candidate's name or Twitter account name. The analysis of the tweets shows positive or negative content, not specific comments. The update each night is a measure of how positive or negative that day's tweets compare to all tweets.
Another issue raised by this new Twitter innovation is the thought that people are now being monitored just relaxing and trying to have conversations with each other. At this time, the Political Index is only parsing tweets related to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but who knows what could be monitored in the future? Will Twitter start tracking what people say about the government in general?