Abstract: Solicited public opinion surveys reach a limited subpopulation of willing participants and are expensive to conduct, leading to poor time resolution and a restricted pool of expert-chosen survey topics. In this study, we demonstrate that unsolicited public opinion polling through sentiment analysis applied to Twitter correlates well with a range of traditional measures, and has predictive power for issues of global importance. We also examine Twitter’s potential to canvas topics seldom surveyed, including ideas, personal feelings, and perceptions of commercial enterprises. Two of our major observations are that appropriately filtered Twitter sentiment (1) predicts President Obama’s job approval three months in advance, and (2) correlates well with surveyed consumer sentiment. To make possible a full examination of our work and to enable others’ research, we make public over 10,000 data sets, each a seven-year series of daily word counts for tweets containing a frequently used search term.
Abstract: Although climate change and energy are intricately linked, their explicit connection is not always prominent in public discourse and the media. Disruptive extreme weather events, including hurricanes, focus public attention in new and different ways, offering a unique window of opportunity to analyze how a focusing event influences public opinion. Simultaneously shaping and reflecting public discourse, media coverage of extreme weather events reflects public opinion of climate issues. Here we analyze climate and energy media coverage of Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012) using topic models, mathematical techniques used to discover abstract topics within a set of documents. Our results demonstrate that post-Katrina media coverage does not contain a climate change topic, and the energy topic is limited to discussion of energy prices, markets, and the economy with almost no explicit linkages made between energy and climate change. In contrast, post-Sandy media coverage does contain a prominent climate change topic, a distinct energy topic, as well as integrated representation of climate change and energy.
Abstract: The consequences of anthropogenic climate change are extensively debated through scientific papers, newspaper articles, and blogs. Newspaper articles may lack accuracy, while the severity of findings in scientific papers may be too opaque for the public to understand. Social media, however, is a forum where individuals of diverse backgrounds can share their thoughts and opinions. As consumption shifts from old media to new, Twitter has become a valuable resource for analyzing current events and headline news. In this research, we analyze tweets containing the word “climate” collected between September 2008 and July 2014. We determine how collective sentiment varies in response to climate change news, events, and natural disasters. Words uncovered by our analysis suggest that responses to climate change news are predominately from climate change activists rather than climate change deniers, indicating that Twitter is a valuable resource for the spread of climate change awareness.