Obama Supports Gay Marriage: How does Social Media Feel about That?

President Obama announced on Wednesday that “it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” This was obviously a bombshell statement for both politicians and the public alike, immediately bringing to the forefront a controversial and polarizing discussion about same-sex or gay marriage. Wherever you stand on the issue, if you’re watching TV or reading the news, you’ve heard all kinds of viewpoints on the subject. And if you’re participating on any social network, you’ve probably heard just as many reactions from armchair pundits.

President Barack ObamaWhat does this have to do with us at KnowEm? Well it just so happens that at 7 am early thursday morning I decided to do some high volume stress tests on our social media near-realtime alert system. I’d heard President Obama’s announcement the night before, and I thought, yeah, his name would probably make for a good example of a high volume keyword. So for the past day and a half we’ve been watching the alerts for “Barack Obama” roll in, and sure enough, it’s been pretty high volume. (If I really wanted even more results, I could have just used “Obama” or “gay marriage” or all 3, but hey, it was 7 am and I didn’t know I would eventually be doing a blog post about the results).

Part of our keyword alert system (which monitors all the social media networks KnowEm tracks as well as millions of blogs) includes sentiment analysis scoring. So this afternoon I thought it would be interesting to check the social media atmosphere (excluding almost all the blogs) to see where people stand on the issue. For each social media mention of “Barack Obama” that came in, it received an analysis score of anywhere from -5 (very negative), to 0 (neutral), up to +5 (highly positive). I am by no means any kind of professional statistician, but I did get an A in the course in college, so like most bloggers I believe that’s enough credentials to qualify me as an expert on the subject 🙂 We received several thousand hits, but I chose an arbitrary sample of 2,053 results to score in each category, negative or positive.

The results aren’t that surprising, unless you expected one side to really “win”. There were more negative comments in the stronger sentiments (-5 and -4, as opposed to those people’s comments which score +5 or +4), but there were few of them (Think bell curve. Think it, because I don’t want to have to graph it). In the more moderate range, those comments which scored +2 or +3, the positive side won out. But of those comments which were closer to neutral, the -1 and +1 scores (and these were majority of scores), the negative comments won out over a slight margin.

So in conclusion, what exactly do these results show us? 1) Our stress test was successful and nothing crashed, and 2) The public’s reaction in Social Media seems fairly equally divided on their opinion of Barack Obama right now. Now you can argue that random social media mentions don’t take into account political leanings, age, sex, or other important demographics, but you can clearly see that people are speaking out. And for the first time in history, we can quantitatively measure how the public (well, the public with social media accounts) reacts to a major political announcement.

(FYI, the neutral scores are included at the bottom)


Negative Score Social Network Mentions  Positive Score Social Network Mentions 
-5 Facebook 2 5 FriendFeed 1
-4 Twitter 39 4 Facebook 11
-4 Facebook 32 4 Twitter 10
-4 FriendFeed 22 4 FriendFeed 9
-4 Google News 5 4 Google News 2
-4 Google Buzz 4 4 Google Buzz 2
-3 Twitter 62 4 NewsVines 1
-3 Facebook 52 3 Facebook 67
-3 FriendFeed 27 3 Twitter 65
-3 Google News 12 3 FriendFeed 31
-3 Google Buzz 10 3 Google News 24
-3 Deviant 2 3 Google Buzz 6
-3 Yahoo News 1 3 Youtube 3
-2 Twitter 314 3 Yahoo News 2
-2 FriendFeed 101 3 NewsVines 1
-2 Facebook 76 2 FriendFeed 321
-2 Google News 64 2 Twitter 259
-2 Google Buzz 22 2 Facebook 117
-2 Yahoo News 8 2 Google News 62
-2 NewsVines 7 2 Google Buzz 25
-2 Youtube 4 2 Yahoo News 10
-2 Deviant 2 2 NewsVines 6
-2 Picasa 1 2 Deviant 6
-2 Flickr 1 2 Picasa 4
-1 Twitter 719 2 Youtube 3
-1 FriendFeed 212 2 Vimeo 1
-1 Facebook 108 2 Flickr 1
-1 Google News 49 1 Twitter 800
-1 Picasa 33 1 Facebook 75
-1 Google Buzz 25 1 Google News 42
-1 Youtube 11 1 Picasa 30
-1 Deviant 9 1 Google Buzz 28
-1 NewsVines 7 1 Youtube 9
-1 Yahoo News 7 1 Deviant 7
-1 Flickr 2 1 NewsVines 6
-1 Vimeo 1 1 Yahoo News 4
1 Flickr 2
0 Twitter 243
0 FriendFeed 32
0 NewsVines 14
0 Flickr 12
0 Youtube 11
0 Picasa 5
0 Facebook 5
0 Google News 5
0 Google Buzz 1

barack obama, gay marriage, keyword alerts, non-expert analysis of an important issue, same-sex marriage, sentiment analysis, social media scoring


One Response to “Obama Supports Gay Marriage: How does Social Media Feel about That?”

  1. peth on January 9th, 2013 9:00 pm

    I can see the good and bad side of all this reporting. Just like voting, if only 3 people vote, someone wins. And just like voting, we really have no choice as to what the internet considers worth keeping track of. So in the end reports only show us what SOME peeps think, never what ALL the peeps think………

Obama Supports Gay Marriage: How does Social Medi…

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