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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Twitter in the 2012 Campaign

A number of posts have discussed the role of Twitter in electoral politics.  At the Shorenstein Center of Harvard's Kennedy School, journalist Peter Hamby writes of the 2012 campaign:
When political news broke, Twitter was the place to find it. Top officials from the Obama and Romney campaigns would joust, publicly, via tweet. When news producers back in Washington and New York were deciding what to put on their shows, many looked first to their Twitter feeds.

Twitter is where that central conversation is taking place,” said Ben Smith of Buzzfeed. “It’s not that Twitter is where you’re discussing the news. So much of it is actually happening on Twitter. It was just the central stream of the conversation for everyone.”

Jonathan Martin of The New York Times, who uses the service to share news, tweet political trivia and swap food tips with other frequent travelers, agrees.

“It’s the gathering spot, it’s the filing center, it’s the hotel bar, it’s the press conference itself all in one,” said Martin. “It’s the central gathering place now for the political class during campaigns but even after campaigns. It’s even more than that. It’s become the real-time political wire. That’s where you see a lot of breaking news. That’s where a lot of judgments are made about political events, good, bad or otherwise.”

John Dickerson, hardly a new media curmudgeon, called Twitter “a mess for campaign coverage.”
“It makes us small and it makes us pissed off and mean, because Twitter as a conversation is incredibly acerbic and cynical and we don’t need more of that in coverage of politics, we need less,” he said.
Dickerson’s assertion is backed up by Pew, which monitored the tone the campaign conversation on various media platforms during the race. Twitter was far and away “the most negative” of all the platforms studied, the study found—more than cable news, blogs, newspapers or Facebook.

“The overall negativity on Twitter over the course of the campaign stood out,” Pew noted in a subsequent study. “For both candidates, negative comments exceeded positive comments by a wide margin throughout the fall campaign season.”