Public Sentiment on Social Media in Super Tuesday States Highest for Romney

Super Tuesday will clock in votes from a total of ten states on March 6th: Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. Looking forward a week before the big day, the sentiment on social media predicts a strong Romney showing, despite a rise in conversation surrounding Santorum in the last few weeks.

On Twitter, the former Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum, is still the most talked about candidate, but is all publicity good publicity? A recent analysis from media anlaytics firm OhMyGov Inc. shows the public sentiment of those talking about the GOP candidates on social media in states participating in Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses.

As the chart from the OhMyGov analysis illustrates, the average public sentiment of the remaining GOP contenders in all ten Super Tuesday states taken from social media mentions between Feb 22-28 shows that Mitt Romney is leading the pack with a little over 40 percent positive conversation. Despite what pundits commonly refer to as a "lack of excitement" among would-be Republican voters for Romney, when compared to his rivals, Romney is still the favorite on social media.

Perhaps that's why he pulled out his recent victories in Michigan and Arizona.

Romney can also boast the least negative conversation online about him, with negative comments about Ron Paul the second lowest at 26 percent.

In contrast, Romney's top competitor, Rick Santorum, yields a rate of online commentary that is positive only 37 percent of the time, putting him in a close second place behind Romney. These numbers are fairly reflective of both recent polling numbers and primary votes by percent in Michigan, where Romney won by 41 percent of the votes to Santorum's 38 percent.

What might be a drag on his ticket, however, is Santorum's negative coverage on social media, which is a full four points higher than Romney's at just over 29 percent. This may prove to be Santorum's Achilles heal headed into Super Tuesday, as those participating in the conversation on social media seem to respond more negatively to Santorum than to any other candidate except Newt Gingrich.

In fact, in Super Tuesday states, across a sample of 500,000 social media mentions, Romney incurs the most positive response from social media commenters in 6 out of 10 states, though his lead is narrow in most. In terms of positive coverage, Romney is ahead in North Dakota (+12.5), Georgia (+2.8), Virginia (+2.7), Massachusetts (+0.2), Idaho (+0.2), and Ohio (+0.1).

Gingrich leads the GOP contenders with the most positive public sentiment in Alaska (+12.4), Tennessee (+0.5), and Vermont (+ 0.4). Paul takes the lead in Oklahoma (+4) over other candidates.

Noteworthy is the fact that Santorum is not leading any individual Super Tuesday state in positive conversation. Of course, with a little under a week to go before the polls, sentiment could shift, especially given Romney's recent primary victories.

The graphs below show the individual sentiment breakdown for candidates in each state voting on March 6th.

Although public sentiment on social media is a useful indicator of each campaign's success in branding their candidate positively and for assessing how affected each candidate is by mudslinging and political advertising, there are issues with using public sentiment as a measure for predicting election outcomes. The primary issue stems from an inability to segment out would-be voters by party affiliation. This potentially leads to biasing, if say, more Democrats bash Santorum online than they do Romney.

On the other hand, as electability in the general election has been Romney's biggest advantage and talking point for why he should be the nominee, it appears that Romney's campaign has it right. In the general population, he is liked more than his competitors. That may be enough for him to take Super Tuesday and the nomination to follow.