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Good Question: Does Twitter Reflect Public Opinion?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - When big news happens, it can seem like everyone flocks to Twitter. But, studies show only 19 percent of adults who use the Internet are on Twitter and only 3 percent use it regularly.

So, is Twitter really a good representation of public opinion? Good Question.

"It is from time to time, but not over time," said Bonnie Harris, CEO of Wax Marketing, an integrated marketing communications firm.

A Pew research study found Twitter leans young and Democratic. Just about half of all users are under 30 years old and, on topics like same sex court victories, from early 2012, Pew found the Twitter response to be far more positive than negative.

But, the Twittersphere doesn't always err on the side of liberal.

For example, public opinion polls showed 27 percent of people had negative reactions to President Obama's 2012 State of the Union, but 40 percent of the tweets about the same topic were negative. A similar situation occurred for his second inaugural address.

"You're getting a lot of instant reactions," said Bud Dorfman of Minneapolis. "I think it's a good place to vent."

The researchers at Pew also found that different users reacted to different events. The reaction to the same sex marriage court victories came from a different set of tweeters, compared with those who wrote about the 2012 State of the Union.

Harris said Twitter doesn't have to mirror the public to be influential.

"There might be few people on Twitter, but the people who are on Twitter are important," Harris said, referring to groups like policymakers and journalists. "I think it represents those of us who are trying to drive the general opinion or trying to drive what the public is going to talk about. It's kind of a precursor to what you will be talking about at the dinner table."

Harris believes that, in many cases, Twitter is about trying to "influence influencers." If that doesn't always work, though, it can mean the same small circle talking with each other.

"That often happens," "Harris said. "Sometimes we joke that it is marketers talking to other marketers."

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