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Twitter launches vox populi index for US presidential race

Measuring the twittering classes

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Twitter has launched a new website that will announce daily measurements of how Twitter users feel about US presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, calling it "a new barometer for the election."

The Twitter Political Index, which kicked off on Wednesday, scours the micro-blogging firm's databases for any posts mentioning either candidate and evaluates their contents using proprietary "social sentiment analysis" software from social analytics outfit Topsy.

The result is a "positivity score" for each post from 1 to 100, where the higher the score, the more positive the post is. The software then computes the average positivity score for each candidate.

The final score is shown relative to the average positivity level of all Twitter posts, so a score of 60 means posts about that candidate are on average 60 per cent more positive than the background chatter.

The scores will be updated each day at 8pm EST, along with a graph showing historical data.

Adam Sharp, Twitter's head of government, news and social innovation, says the "Twindex" is meant to supplement, rather than replace, traditional polling methods.

"Just as new technologies like radar and satellite joined the thermometer and barometer to give forecasters a more complete picture of the weather, so too can the Index join traditional methods like surveys and focus groups to tell a fuller story of political forecasts," Sharp wrote in a blog post announcing the index.

Traditional or not, as your Reg hack writes these words, both candidates have pretty dismal showings. Barack Obama scores 34, down 4 since yesterday, and although Mitt Romney has crept up 2 points, his total score is a mere 25.

As such, it may be premature for the candidates' campaigns to start quoting the figures just yet. ®

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