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The influence of Twitter

July 9, 2013


Retweeting of nuclear power-related posts help boost their online presence



The forwarding and quoting of tweets about "nuclear power" by specific Twitter users are playing a major part in boosting the number of such tweets among policy-related words over the Twittersphere, analysis by the Mainichi Shimbun and a Ritsumeikan University associate professor has shown.

The analysis, which was jointly conducted by the Mainichi and Ritsumeikan's Ryosuke Nishida as part of collaborative research into online campaigning for the July 21 House of Councillors election, sought the reasons behind the high number of tweets about the nuclear power issue, using the analysis software "BuzzFinder" developed by NTTCom Online Marketing Solutions Corp.

When tweets posted on July 4, the day the upper house election was officially announced, were collected and analyzed, it was found that the diffusion of tweets about nuclear power were expanded by specific Twitter users who were intensively retweeting them.

There were 55,100 tweets that included the term "nuclear power" on July 4, of which 18,600 were original tweets posted by 9,100 users. Those tweets were retweeted 36,500 times by 16,500 users. Many of the original tweets are believed to represent writers' own opinions, with an average of two tweets posted per person that day. Nearly twice the number of those who posted original tweets retweeted at least two tweets each on average. Because the same person may have posted original tweets and also retweeted others' tweets, it can be said that specific individuals and groups concerned with the nuclear power issue repeatedly retweeted relevant posts, tripling the number of tweets from that of those original tweets.

According to a nationwide telephone survey by the Mainichi Shimbun covering some 30,000 voters on July 4 and 5 over which points of contention they weigh the most in their voting decisions for the upper house election, 28 percent cited "pension, health care, nursing care and child-rearing" and another 28 percent cited "economic measures." Only 8 percent cited "nuclear power and energy policy." As for those in their 20s to 30s -- many of whom are believed to be Internet-users --- the trends were almost the same, with those who cited "nuclear power and energy policy" accounting for just 5 percent.

There were 19,800 tweets about "pension and child-rearing" on July 4, of which 10,000 were original tweets posted by 7,400 people and the remaining 9,800 were retweets by 6,400 people. Compared to tweets about nuclear power, original tweets about "pension and child-rearing" were fewer in number and were not retweeted as frequently. As such, the gap between the total number of tweets is greater than the gap between the number of original tweets on the respective topics.

Celebrities and others who have over 100,000 followers each have actively tweeted their views on the pros and cons of nuclear power, contributing to the diffusion of such tweets. The protests against reactor restarts in front of the Prime Minister's Office also expanded via Twitter. Ties nurtured among those specific users are believed to have made it easier to diffuse such tweets via retweeting.

"Topics on Twitter tend to be focused on policy issues that encompass diverse points of contention and are hard to resolve unambiguously, such as the nuclear power issue," Nishida said.

"It should be said that communications among specific Internet users have been made visible (on Twitter), and that the number of tweets itself does not reflect public opinion.

"The number of those who posted their original tweets wasn't so many, considering the total number of Twitter users. The idea of exploring public opinion on the Internet by analyzing topics frequently discussed on Twitter may be inappropriate in itself," he added.



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