A Comparative Study of Social Media and Traditional Polling in the Egyptian Uprising of 2011

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Abstract

Because social network sites such as Twitter are increasingly being used to express opinions and attitudes, the utility of using these sites as legitimate and immediate information sources is of growing interest. This research examines how well information derived from social media aligns with that from more traditional polling methods. Specifically, this research examines tweets from over 40,000 Egyptian users from both before and after the Egyptian uprising on January 25, 2011 and compares that information with polling data collected by The Gallup Organization during the same time period. This analysis ascertains trends in sentiment and identifies the extent to which these methodologies align over time. The results show that trends across the two sources are not consistent. Focusing solely on Twitter data, individuals expressed increasingly negative opinions after the uprising, whereas survey results indicated that individuals were increasingly positive post-uprising. We discuss the implications of these differences for the use of social media as a real-time information source.