Social Media Opinion on the Fiscal Cliff Negotiations: Emotions Take Over

On holidays, social media channels tend to light up with pictures and tales of parties, smart clothes, food and drink. On New Year’s Eve 2012, people turned to social media for festive reasons and to check the news and express their social media opinion about the impending “fiscal cliff.”

Social Media Opinion Fiscal CliffNews reports about the contentious last-minute negotiations in Washington, DC pointed out the angry tone of many posts on social media. Social intelligence company NetBase recently released an analysis of negative sentiment around the fiscal cliff, which, by their calculation, ranged from -37 before the deal was reached to -6 after legislators arrived at an agreement. Unlike NetBase’s limited basic sentiment analysis, which shows general positive and negative sentiment and a word cloud without context, we used Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight™ social media opinion analysis platform to uncover a deeper understanding of the topics, themes, and nuance of public opinion on social media and to examine how they change over time. Our intent is always to reveal the specific themes driving the sentiment and precisely quantify this qualitative information. Only by going beyond basic measures of positive/negative is it possible to deliver the true strategic value of social media insights.

In mid-December, we used ForSight to look at who was tweeting about the fiscal cliff. Now, after the tense hours and days leading up to the December 31 deadline, we have used our patented algorithm to examine what people were saying and how they were expressing their political opinions about the fiscal cliff and the negotiations on Twitter.

Social Media Opinion Percentages Fiscal Cliff

Our social media opinion analysis supports the anecdotal reports of anger: we found that emotional opinions were the largest category (24% of the conversation) after posts that were sharing news items related to the fiscal cliff (36%). Of the posts sharing news about the fiscal cliff, 23% are general news and 13% of the conversation probes whether the politicians on Capitol Hill will arrive at a deal.

The posts asking “Will there be a deal?” start out as a small portion of the conversation; we see that the trend line representing that portion of conversation increases sharply as the December 31 deadline approached and then passed without a deal.

Social Media Opinion Analysis Fiscal Cliff

While some people (22% of the conversation) made light of the fiscal cliff through jokes and wordplay, even more social opinion (24%) was based on strong negative emotions, including anger, disappointment, and fear. These emotion-based posts represent a separate strand of conversation from strong opinions about politicians and political parties. Many social media users (18% of the conversation) voiced their opinions about who had the right ideas about the country’s fiscal and tax situation, and who is to blame for the failure to meet the midnight deadline.

Using ForSight to examine the nuance of what people are saying about the fiscal cliff negotiations and how they are saying it, we find that strong emotions predominated social media opinion over the 2012 winter holidays. What will the emotions of anger and fear among the public mean for the year ahead in politics? Tell us what you think, and find us on Twitter @crimsonhexagon.

If you’re interested in more information on the ForSight social media opinion analytics platform, please request a live demo. To keep up with our analysis of current events, politics, consumer opinion, and other topics, follow us on Twitter: @crimsonhexagon.


Written by John Ponte

As Director of Marketing at Crimson Hexagon, John manages the company's global marketing lead generation activities. John resides in Rhode Island, is an avid tennis player, enjoys a wide variety of music and sports.

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