Twitter hopes to reflect nuances of public opinion with political barometer

Twitter introduced what it is calling a political barometer Wednesday to measure user feelings toward the two presidential candidates based on user Tweets, taking advantage of the huge amount of data coming through Twitter to add context to the political landscape.

Twitter has partnered with data analysis folks from Twitter-search company Topsy and data polling firms to examine how user sentiment toward a candidate compares to all Tweets about that candidate across the site. Here’s how the scoring works, according to Twitter: “A score of 73 for a candidate indicates that Tweets containing their name or account name are on average more positive than 73 percent of all Tweets,” the company said in its blog post.

Twitter has been building out its government and politics team recently, participating in one of the GOP debates with Fox News, making it a natural fit with polling firms to measure user feedback about the candidates.

In the blog post announcement, Twitter pointed out that periods where Tweets aligned with the candidate rankings are interesting, but also periods where the two numbers do not align could also prove useful:

For example, the trend in Twitter Political Index scores for President Obama over the last two years often parallel his approval ratings from Gallup, frequently even hinting at where the poll numbers are headed. But what’s more interesting are the periods when these data sets do not align, like when his daily scores following the raid that killed Osama bin Laden dropped off more quickly than his poll numbers, as the Twitter conversation returned to being more focused on economic issues.

The information from Twitter’s barometer will be used for a new USA Today/Twitter election meter, and the announcements will also be broadcasted from the Twitter account @gov.