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Study: Twitter doesn't represent the general public, but not simply split on political lines

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Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images

Twitter logo is displayed at the entrance of Twitter headquarters in San Francisco on March 11, 2011 in California.

I tweet. Probably too much. And a new study from the Pew Research Center says that the collection of social media users who sound off on Twitter aren’t representative of the broader public, differing significantly from national polls.

It’s not always a strict political split; sometimes Twitter is more liberal than public polling, while at other times it’s more conservative.

“Often it is the overall negativity that stands out,” according to Pew. Well, anyone who’s spent much time on the Internet is used to that by now.

One instance where Twitter was more liberal than would be expected based on polls was when a federal court ruled that the California law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, which produced a significantly more positive response than public opinion polling on the same ruling. Twitter was 46 percent positive, 8 percent negative and 46 percent neutral, while the public at large was 33 percent positive, 44 percent negative and 15 percent with no reaction

While there was a more liberal response to the first presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama and to Obama’s re-election, while when it came to both last year’s State of the Union and Obama’s second inaugural, Twitter was far more negative than polling would indicate the public felt.

So why is this the case? Pew noted that Twitter users are younger and more likely to be Democrats. They also concede that, in some ways, Twitter includes a demographic that Pew polls traditionally don’t: those under the age of 18, as well as those living outside the United States.

Just remember: Feel free to look at what’s trending, but remember that the rest of America may share your opinion on #InitialsOfSomeoneYouCareAbout.

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