Analyzing the content of Twitter’s tweets has become a new way to gauge public sentiment on an issue, albeit a self-selecting method of culling data- and in recent weeks, the microblogging service has proven what appears to be a shift in public position on policy surrounding gay marriage.
While the legalization of gay marriage probably can’t come quickly enough to those who are suffering due to lack of equal rights afforded gay people, what feels so striking about sentiment about same-sex unions expressed in forums like Twitter is how quickly public opinion shifted on the issue even from less than a decade ago.
Gay marriage as a political issue really became hugely divisive in the mid-00’s, exploding during the 2004 election (PDF) and leading many to cynically say afterwards that the issue was fabricated as a wedge to motivate a confused voting populace. Just eight short years later, support for gay marriage seems to be far outweighing vocal opposition for it, and the default has very clearly shifted to viewing the latter as bigotry- comparisons to opposition to interracial marriage are commonplace now.
Twitter is just one place where the spread is measurable, and the internet in generally is visibly warm regarding the issue. Per The Atlantic:
“Via tweet-crunching computers at Crimson Hexagon analyzing the content of tweets, Pew finds that 41 percent of same sex marriage-related tweets were positive, 43 percent were neutral, and a scant 16 percent were negative. A similar pulse-taking of the blogosphere yielded basically the same result: a 40 percent level of support gay marriage during that period, with only 14 against.”
The mag notes that while Obama’s historic show of support unequivocally for gay marriage upped the volume of tweets on gay marriage, the tone of tweets and their split between those for and against remained consistent to levels just preceding the President’s coming out.