We see that if the election were decided purely based on Twitter mentions, then Obama would be re-elected quite handily. In fact, the only states in the electoral college that Romney would win are Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Vermont. Romney also wins in the District of Colombia, and we unfortunately didn't collect data on Alaska or Hawaii. Some of the results seem to be interesting reflections of social and political characteristics of particular places. It makes sense that Romney has captured more of the public imagination in Utah, likely due to the state's considerable conservatism and large Mormon population, and Massachusetts, the state that he governed not all that long ago.
We can also visualize the data using a sliding scale, so as to see how close the margin of victory is for each candidate in a given state.
Romney's largest margins of victory are in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, while Obama's largest victories are in California and, strangely, Texas. The cases of Massachusetts and Texas, not to mention large portions of the south and plain states, likely point to the fact that many references on Twitter would tend to be negative.
It is also worth noting that we compared Twitter mentions of both Vice-Presidential candidates: Biden and Ryan. Ryan, interestingly, wins the head-to-head competition in every single state. This makes for a rather boring map, so we decided to instead compare references to Ryan and Romney in the map below (Romney shaded in grey for his ebullient personality, and Ryan in pink as a result of his staunch support for gay rights).
As might be expected, there are more references to Romney in most states (Kansas, Michigan, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont being the exceptions here). However, when looking at total references, we again don't see a large gap between the two men. Ryan has 94,707 tweets compared to Romney's 120,637.
What do these data really tell us? Ultimately, I doubt that they will accurately predict the election, as Obama's seeming victory in Texas or Romney's in Massachusetts will almost certainly not come to pass. But they do certainly reveal that many internet users in California, Texas, and much of the rest of the country for that matter, tend to talk more about Obama than Romney. And, of course, in order to truly equate tweets with votes, we would need to employ sentiment analysis or manually read a large number of the election-related tweets in order to figure out whether we are seeing messages of support or more critical posts, as has been done in a couple of interesting projects by Twitter available here and here and another project by Esri available here.
Maybe the most revealing aspect of these data is that the 'popular vote' is split between the two candidates. While the social and political data shadows that we are picking up may not accurately tell us much about the electoral college results, when aggregated across the country they may be a rough indicator of tomorrow's outcome, pointing to the more-or-less equal and evenly divided nature of the American two-party political system. While this work may seem like a contemporary attempt at soothsaying, something we tend to shy away from, the data more appropriately serve as a useful benchmark in order to allow us to analyze what social media data shadows might actually reflect, as no matter the level of participation, they remain distorted mirrors on the offline material world.