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Analysis finds social media and talkback divides political thought

It's possibly not a surprise, but a study has found that Twitter users lean to the political left, while talkback radio callers are more likely to be conservative voters, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

These two views are compared with the mainstream opinions of those surveyed in polls like a Newspoll.

Sentia Media released the results and additionally discovered social media and talkback users were more likely to support the prime minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott, respectively.

John Chalmers of the media company said that the results proved that Twitter provides an avenue for more blunt conversation and often anti-social comments than talkback radio.

He commented to Fairfax: "Talkback has a reputation for being robust and polarised, but Twitter is far more vitriolic and venomous in content."

There are often Twitter campaigns regarding Tony Abbott and certain issues which resonate with the social media public.

The reason behind the stark contrast, Mr Chalmers pointed out, was that Twitter had no moderator, while radio has producers and presenters to ensure comments don't go too far. The seven-second delay also plays a role in weeding out extreme words.

He also suggested that social media is also susceptible to "superficial" opinion which isn't a true reflection of voter intention. Mr Chalmers cited the prime minister's stumble when she walked across soft grass while in India – Twitter uses reacted quickly against her as a result.

The data, however, did not find that users of both media avenues are descending into their own worlds of political thought.

There is a perception in the United States that those who consume a large amount of media are being closed off from society at large into these narrow avenues of party loyalty.

Mr Chalmers said that his company's analysis actually found the opposite – that social media users and talkback callers are actually following the broader opinions of the nation.

The Sentia information found that between July and November when the government was recovering in the polls, users of both media were reflecting that opinion – generally speaking.

But Mr Chalmers said the Sentia analysis discovered that both streams of opinion, Twitter and talkback, moved with changes in the broader national sentiment.

He concluded: ''Both are reasonably sound bellwethers of public sentiment, to a greater or lesser degree.''

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