Blog Buzz Predicted GOP Wave in 2010 Election

Volume and tone of political blogs previewed election results, Obama's falling.

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For the first time ever, the volume and tone of political bloggers writing about Tuesday's elections accurately predicted the outcome of the races. The so-called blog buzz only got one big race wrong: Jerry Brown's election as governor of California.

"The volume of posts coupled with the positive rankings for Republican candidates were definitely a predictor of the winner in nearly all of the top races this election season," says Al DiGuido, CEO of Zeta Interactive, a marketing firm who's "Zeta Buzz" mines more than 200 million blogs, Tweets, message boards, and social media posts to determine the buzz to top issues like politics. [See photos from the campaign trail.]

Zeta has been conducting buzz surveys for Whispers for a while, but this is the first time DiGuido says that blogging and other online content about politics was an accurate predictor of the election outcome. And, he adds, what he's seeing isn't good news for Obama and the Democrats. "Blog posts from Republican leaning individuals has gone up dramatically over the past two years," he says, a big change from 2008 when President Obama won the presidency. "Democrats and the Obama administration continue to experience a dramatic decline in the volume of posts and an increase in the negativity of these posts. There is little doubt that the American people are using all avenues to express their impatience and displeasure with the status quo," says DiGuido, whose New York firm uses a scientific algorithm to measure the volume and tone of conversations across the social media landscape.

Among his top findings:

-- California's races dominated the blogging and online world during election week.

-- The positive buzz about Obama has dropped dramatically while Sen. John McCain's has surged.

-- The overall election buzz online for this election was almost as high as it was in 2008.

Below is his report to Whispers:

BUZZIEST RACES

Here's a list of the Top 5 buzziest races, according to the overall volume buzz generated from Monday night thru Wednesday night. The % in parenthesis shows the share of volume among the Top 5 that each race received:

1. California Governor - Brown vs. Whitman (34% share of volume)

2. New York Governor - Cuomo vs. Paladino (24%)

3. California Senate - Boxer vs. Fiorina (18%)

4. Florida Governor - Scott vs. Sink (15%)

5. Texas Governor - Perry vs. White (9%)

Interestingly, of the Top 5 buzziest races, only one candidate (Meg Whitman) also finished among the Top 5 in the tonal category. Additionally, all Top 5 in the tonal category were Republicans, and all but one (Whitman, again) won their respective races. Here is the breakdown of Top 5 candidates according to their tonal buzz ranking:

1. Johnny Isakson, 82% positive/18% negative

2. Tom Coburn, 80% positive/20% negative

3. John McCain, 78% positive/21% negative

4. Meg Whitman, 78% positive/22% negative

5. Dave Heineman, 76% positive/24% negative

It's also interesting to note, that, of all the winners of this week's gubernatorial or senator races in the Top 5 volume category, the one to have received the lowest positive tonal buzz was Andrew Cuomo of New York State, who, despite winning the election, received just 54% positive buzz online. His opponent, Carl Paladino, however, received among the bottom 5 lowest tonal buzz rankings at just 40% positive.

OBAMA vs. MCCAIN BUZZ

It is also interesting to note the change in buzz between Obama and McCain over the past two years. At the end of 2008, for example, Obama buzz was 55% positive/45% negative, while McCain buzz had dropped to 52% positive/48% negative. As of this week, McCain buzz had reached a year-long peak of 78% positive, placing him among the Top 5 most positive 2010 election candidates, while Obama buzz remained down at 44% positive/56% negative. Here is the breakdown below:

1. Obama:

  • 2008 Buzz: 55% positive/45% negative

  • 2010 Buzz: 42% positive/58% negative 
  •             % Change: - 13%

    2. McCain:

    • 2008 Buzz: 52% positive/48% negative

    • 2010 Buzz: 78% positive/22% negative
    •             % Change: + 26%

      Obama's buzz and Democrat buzz prior to the election could have also served as a preview of the shift from Democrat to Republican control of the House, as last week Obama buzz was just 44% positive/56% negative, and tone around the term "Democrat/Democrats/Democratic" overall was just 46% positive, while buzz around the term "Republican/Republicans" was over 50% positive at 53% positive/47% negative.

      Additionally, looking at the cluster words, there has been a significant change between the two since the 2008 election. In 2008, for example, among the most popular words and phrases used to describe Obama online were "leader", "history" and "president". However as of this week, among Obama's most popular cluster words are "unsure/not sure", "loss/lost" and "react/reaction" (please note: "react/reaction" were used primarily in posts from people who were curious to see how Obama would react to the change in guard from Democrat to Republican in the House.

      OVERALL ELECTION BUZZ

      Overall election buzz this year was extremely high, generating just under 4% of the total buzz that even the 2010 Presidential election received.

      The overall themes on the internet coming out of this year's elections were the change from Republican to Democrat in the House, and expectations that the newly elected governors, senators and representatives will make a change. For example, among the top five most popular words or terms used to describe the elections this week were "Republican", "GOP", "expect/expectations", "change" and "wait". (please note: "wait" was used primarily in posts from people who said they will "wait" to see what type of change the newly elected officials implement before making a judgment).

      Interestingly, this election illustrated that buzz can sometimes be a good indicator of outcomes. For example, among the Top 5 most positive buzzed candidates, only 1 did not win their respective election (Whitman). Likewise, of the Top 5 most negative buzzed candidates, all of them lost their respective elections.

      Of the issues and stories coming out of this year's elections, the subject of economic change received the most online buzz, generating 53% of the online chatter regarding specific issues that people are talking about. Trailing economic change was health care reform (21%), followed by Obama's response to the election results (16%), and other (10%).

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