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Twitter and public opinion: Can't see the forest for the tweets

The Twitter 'fail whale' (pictured above). According to new research from the Pew Research Center, Twitter is a bad way to predict public opinion.

Teachers, here's one for your social studies students: According to new research from the Pew Research Center, Twitter is a bad way to predict public opinion. Turns out, just because a lot of people tweet something does not necessarily mean the public at large agrees. Tweets can run more conservative or more liberal than the general public.

But, one conclusion is clear: "Twitter is full of haters," says Slate tech blogger Will Oremus. "Haters" may be a bit strong. But the study shows that negativity rules in social media.

"When [President Obama] nominated John Kerry for Secretary of State, the reaction on Twitter was overwhelmingly negative. Everybody was making fun of Kerry, but the general public, Pew found, was actually rather supportive of the Kerry nomination," Oremus says.

To hear more about the relationship between Twitter and public opinion, click on the audio player above.

About the author

Will Oremus is a tech blogger for Slate.
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