Predicting and Interpolating State-level Polls using Twitter Textual Data

Nick Beauchamp
American Journal of Political Science
September 13, 2016


Spatially or temporally dense polling remains both difficult and expensive using existing survey methods. In response, there have been increasing efforts to approximate various survey measures using social media, but most of these approaches remain methodologically flawed. To remedy these flaws, this article combines 1,200 state-level polls during the 2012 presidential campaign with over 100 million state-located political tweets; models the polls as a function of the Twitter text using a new linear regularization feature-selection method; and shows via out-of-sample testing that when properly modeled, the Twitter-based measures track and to some degree predict opinion polls, and can be extended to unpolled states and potentially substate regions and subday timescales. An examination of the most predictive textual features reveals the topics and events associated with opinion shifts, sheds light on more general theories of partisan difference in attention and information processing, and may be of use for real-time campaign strategy.

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