Twitter is the loudest — and usually the meanest — medium out there for the 2012 Presidential candidates, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

The study compared tone and sentiment toward the 2012 presidential candidates in mainstream media sites, blogs and on Twitter from May 2 through Nov. 27 of this year. Here’s how they summarized their findings:

One distinguishing factor about the campaign discourse on Twitter is that it is more intensely opinionated, and less neutral, than in both blogs and news. Tweets contain a smaller percentage of statements about candidates that are simply factual in nature without reflecting positively or negatively on a candidate.

In general, that means the discourse on Twitter about the candidates has also been more negative.

The one candidate who defied the trend of generally negative discourse on Twitter was Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). We’ve previously noted Paul outperforms his competition on social media and the Pew study reinforces that analysis.

The Pew study found statements about Paul on Twitter to be positive 55 percent of the time, and blogs were kinder to him than to any other candidates. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman was the only other candidate to have higher positive than negative sentiment, but the volume of tweets about him was much lower than of tweets about Paul.

The rest of the field didn’t even come close to matching Paul’s 55-15 percent positive-negative tweet ratio. Here is how they scored (neutral tweet percentages aren’t listed):

Herman Cain: 34% positive, 35% negative

Mitt Romney: 34% positive, 35% negative

Rick Perry: 15% positive, 55% negative

Michele Bachmann: 15% positive, 55% negative

Jon Huntsman: 30% positive, 24% negative

Newt Gingrich: 21% positive, 40% negative

Rick Santorum: 11% positive, 64% negative

Barack Obama: 17% positive, 51% negative

The tone of mainstream media coverage of Paul was more in line with the rest of the 2012 field, though Paul earned a smaller slice of the coverage from traditional media outlets and he continues to lag in most polls. The disconnect between social media trends and poll ratings suggests that Twitter is not an accurate reflection of the electorate, the study’s writers say.

Even if social media isn’t a “vox populi,” there’s significant potential for trend analysis in the full 54-page report, especially in a campaign that has been packed with notable surges and stumbles.

Do you think volume of tweets and sentiment can have any bearing on the outcome of elections? Share your thoughts on how the two correlate in the comments section.

Read the full Pew study

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