Twitter Launches Political Index, Helping Users Track The 2012 Election

Twitter has just announced the launch of its very own Political Index, which uses user tweets to gauge interest and opinion on the 2012 presidential election.

According to Twitter, its political index is “a daily measurement of Twitter users’ feelings towards the candidates as expressed in nearly two million Tweets each week.” It evaluates and weighs tweets that mention Barack Obama or Mitt Romney each day, relative to other messages that pass through Twitter’s systems, reports TechCrunch.

“One glance at the numbers, and it’s easy to see why pundits are already calling 2012 ‘the Twitter election,'” opined Adam Sharp, the head of government, news and social innovation at Twitter. “More Tweets are sent every two days today than had ever been sent prior to Election Day 2008.”

The announcement of Twitter’s political index dovetails with the expectations of Twitter executives that the micro-blogging site is poised to play a huge role in the upcoming 2012 presidential election, reports Computer World. “Gosh, I really think 2012 is going to be the Twitter election,” said Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in January.

The index was partly developed by figures in the political arena, like Democratic pollster Mark Mellman who said, “Anybody who’s really interested in understanding political dynamics is going to be interested in the ebb and flow of these numbers. They do reflect something about the tone and intensity of the political conversation that is going on in this country,” of the political index.

Though noted by developers as “not a replacement for opinion polls,” the Twitter political index still provides “a new sort of information that there was no way of accessing.” It was partially developed by Democratic and Republican pollsters who conceded that the Twitterverse isn’t particularly inclined to the left or the right. While the majority of users are younger and potentially left-leaning, conservative users actually tend to be more active on the micro-blogging site, reports USAToday.

“We were surprised. … It’s not a super Democratic skew,” says Jon McHenry of North Star Opinion Research, a Republican polling firm that partnered with Twitter in designing the index. Specifically, whenever the Obama campaign promotes a new hashtag, “conservatives tend to hijack it almost instantly.”

Though the Twitter political index isn’t exactly a good indication of who will win the next election, “descriptions of social media discussion spaces can be important news,” says Marc Smith, founder of the Social Media Research Foundation.

You can access the Twitter political index here.