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Social Media Users Are Really, Really Negative Towards Politics

If you’ve been seeing some nasty comments about the 2012 election on Facebook or Twitter lately, you’re not alone: discussions surrounding both Obama and Romney have been much more negative than positive on social media throughout the entire campaign.

Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism studied mainstream coverage and compared this to social media coverage of the campaign.

They found that the tone of mainstream media was negative towards both candidates, but that social media was even harsher. Before the first debate, 27 percent of stories about Obama were negative and 44 percent about Romney were negative. After the first debate, Obama’s negative coverage rose to 36 percent while Romney’s fell to 30 percent – but in both time periods the negative coverage outweighed the positive coverage (with neutral coverage winning the majority of coverage for both candidates).

In the mainstream media certain events would increase the positive coverage of one or the other candidate… but not so on social media. As the study reports,

“…the narrative about both men has been relentlessly negative and relatively unmoved by campaign events that have shifted the mainstream narrative-more a barometer of social media user mood than a reflection of candidate action. On Twitter, for instance, the conversation about the campaign has consistently been harsher for Romney than for Obama. On Facebook, the tone improved for Obama in October with the debates, despite the sense that the president had stumbled in the first one. And in the blogosphere, neither candidate has seen a sustained edge in the narrative in the eight weeks studied.”

And when they looked at specifics, the researchers found that the most negative platform was Twitter. They note that each week’s commentary on Twitter was equal to the most negative week on mainstream media.

You can read the study’s entire findings here.

Are you surprised that so much political discussion on social media is negative? Or does this mirror your own experience on Twitter and Facebook?

(Study via Pew; Thumbs down image via Shutterstock)

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