Mitt Romney’s Twitter Gender Gap

There’s been much discussion lately about which presidential candidate is better for women, favored by women, and likely to win the women’s vote.  And while Twitter is a very unscientific way of estimating that, it is interesting to look at who’s actively supporting the candidates on Twitter.

One easy way to identify supporters is to look at people who retweet the candidate’s message — there’s no purer form of support on Twitter than that.  And when we look at who is retweeting each of the candidates, an interesting statistic emerges:

Mitt Romney's Retweet gender gap -- only 30% of retweeters are women

Barack Obama’s retweeters are evenly split between men and women, while Mitt Romney’s retweeters are 70% male and 30% female.

These numbers are even worse than the look, if this assessment of the overall Twitter community is correct: it says overall population of Twitter is 55% female, which means women are over-represented.  If we compensate for this so that gender mix on Twitter  matches that of the USA,  Romney drops to only getting about 26% of his retweets from women.

It is clear that, when it comes to Twitter, there’s a gender gap for Romney.  It will be interesting to see how this progresses through the campaign season.


I looked at all retweets for each candidate for the period 5/14 through 5/20, and estimated the breakdown of the retweet population by a statistically valid sampling.

There are two factors which come into play in this kind of analysis.  First is the sample size.  I looked at a large enough random sampling of retweets to make an observation with +/- 5% accuracy at a 95% confidence interval.  Second is determination on gender — for a discussion on that topic, see this page.

Twitter Activity in Florida’s 6th Congressional District

Florida's 6th district

Florida’s new 6th Congressional district is an open seat, which means that there’s a scramble on in both parties to win the nomination and the general election in the fall.

So far, there are 6 candidates who are getting all the attention (see here for further details), two Democrats and four Republicans.  While it’s still early in the election cycle, we’re already seeing some interesting signs of activity (both tweets from the candidate and about the candidate) on Twitter:

Democrat Heather Beaven, who ran unsuccessfully against John Mica (R) in 2010, is dominating Twitter at this early point in the race — for both Democrats and Republicans.  It will be interesting to see if activity picks up.

Disclaimer: Since I live in this district, it’s more interesting to me than most other congressional races…

Who Gets Retweeted More Frequently: Obama or Romney?

I’ve seen a bunch of stories  lately that say that Romney gets more retweets than Obama does.  Actually, that’s not quite true — they say that, on average, each of Romney’s tweets gets retweeted more often than each of Obama’s does.

This is usually said as a means of explaining that, while Romney may have far fewer followers than Obama does (498,759 to Obama’s 15,409,788) Romney’s are far more enthusiastic than Obama’s.

But I wondered if that was true.  So I looked at all tweets each candidate’s official account sent (@MittRomney and @BarackObama) from 4/15 to 5/12 (four weeks), and determined the average retweet count for each:

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Obama does get more retweets, on average, for each of his tweets.  But given Obama’s 30-to-1 advantage in followers over Romney, it doesn’t seem like that much of an advantage!

But there is a reason why.  Let’s start with the number of actual tweets each candidate’s account sent during that time period:

Obama sent slightly more than 15 times as many tweets as Romney did.  So each Obama supporter had 15 times as many tweets to choose from to retweet.

When you take that all into consideration, the chart of total number of retweets is very telling:

As you can see, in total, the Obama followers are much more active at retweeting than Romney’s — by a factor of 20 to 1.

As a consolation, though, the average Romney follower is 50% more likely to retweet Romney than the average Obama follower is to retweet Obama:

But that’s pretty slim consolation in given Obama’s commanding lead in followers.

So if Team Romney wants to say their followers are more enthusiastic than Obama’s, that would be true. But it would be reasonable to suppose that if Romney grew his follower count to be in the same ballpark as Obama’s his average follower would be considerably less enthusiastic.  (Why? Because the more enthusiastic followers are likely to be the ones who followed him through the primaries — at least that’s my guess).

But Team Obama can take heart in knowing that their presence on Twitter still dominates Romney’s.

Twitter’s Reaction to Marissa Alexander’s 20-year Sentence

Yesterday, Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot to scare off an abusive husband.  Many people, myself included, feel this is a miscarriage of justice.  And many people took to Twitter to express their dismay:

# of tweets mentioning Marissa Alexander

It’s interesting to see what hashtags people are using in their Tweets:

Hashtag Total
#nerdland 246
#MarissaAlexander 230
#StandYourGround 89
#Marissa 59
#FreeMarissa 48
#FL 38
#syg 31
#TrayvonMartin 30
#Trayvon 30

The most frequent hashtag is #nerdland, which refers to the Melissa Harris-Perry show on the weekends and, in fact, the bulk of tweets using that tag occurred last weekend.  The Trayvon Martin tags come from the fact that the prosecutor in this case, Angela Corey, is also the prosecutor in the George Zimmerman trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin.  Ms. Corey is no stranger to controversial cases: she is also currently prosecuting Cristian Fernandez as an adult for murder, even though he was 12 at the time the crime was committed.


I see a lot of people asking what the hashtag #SYG means: Stand Your Ground, the law in Florida that did not help  Marissa Alexander and may or may not help George Zimmerman.

How to craft the most re-tweetable tweet you can!

You will find endless advice on the Internet on the art of writing a tweet that will catch the eye of your audience, all focused on how to find the right way to say what you want.  But there’s another, more mechanical aspect of writing a tweet, one that relates to not what is said, or how you say it, but the structure of the tweet itself.

Mechanically speaking, when you are writing a new tweet that you hope to have re-tweeted, there are four important things to consider:

  1. How long is your text?
  2. How many hash tags should you use?
  3. How many other Twitter users should you reference?
  4. Should you include a URL?

I looked at roughly 100,000 recent tweets and 100,000 recent re-tweets on Twitter to see if I could discover any pattern to them and, hopefully, some guidance that can be used in crafting the perfect tweet.

First up — how long should your tweet be? For most of us, the challenge in Twitter is getting our tweets to fit in the 140-character limitation.  My first draft of a tweet tends to be way over the limit, and the editing process consists of removing words, rephrasing things, and using short-cuts (like “&” instead of “and”) to get the length below the limit.  And this results in tweets that are close to 140 characters in length.

And when you look at the distribution of typical tweet (but not re-tweet) lengths, what you see is pretty much that:

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Once you hit about 60 characters in length, the percentage of tweets remains fairly flat until 135 characters, where it takes a sharp rise — that’s the zone where people just can’t fit another word in. About 20% of all tweets are in the 131 to 140 character range.

But does maxing out your text produce a tweet that will be re-tweeted? Here’s a chart that shows the likelihood of a re-tweet by length of tweet:

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This is almost the inverse of the average tweet lengths!

We can see, pretty dramatically, the probability of a tweet being re-tweeted drops as the tweet gets longer, until around 36 characters or so when it starts to level out.  Short tweets get re-tweeted!  Even holding tweets to around 30 characters is a dramatic improvement over adding just another word!

So if the ideal tweet is pretty short, what does that mean about hash tags?  Here’s a distribution of re-tweets by the number of hash tags in them:

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And as we would expect from the dominance of short re-tweets, the number of hash tags is usually none, and occasionally one.  I’ve seen advice that suggests people use no more than two hash tags in a tweet, and this definitely bears that out.

If you look at the number of @references that people make in their tweets that are re-tweeted, the chart looks virtually the same.  Zero is very popular, one is OK, and over that drops off the list.

Now, to the last question: Should you include URLs in your tweets?  My natural inclination was yes, always, because that’s my call to action.  But lets see how that works with tweets and re-tweets.  Here’s the percentage of original (non-re-tweet) tweets that have URLs:

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And here’s the percentage of re-tweets that have URLs:

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We can see that re-tweets tend to slightly favor tweets without URLs, probably driven by the inclination people show to re-tweet short tweets.

For those of us who like to cram every last bit of information possible into a Tweet (and that’s me!), these statistics present a challenge.  Long tweets with lots of hash tags, references, and URLs just don’t generate the kind of engagement we’d like.  People often describe Twitter’s limit of 140 characters as being constraining, but the practical limits are even worse.

At the end of the day, you can’t prune so many words out of your content that you shear it of meaning.  But there is still some advice I can give:

  • Have one simple idea per tweet.  Don’t try to cram more in.  Words like “and” or “or” are dead give-aways that you’re putting multiple ideas in a tweet; you should split it up into two or more tweets.
  • If you have problems coming up with enough tweets to meet your goal, this is your chance to take one idea and play it out over several tweets.
  • But don’t spread a paragraph across multiple tweets.  You’ve seen people who write an essay in twitter and just break it up into 140 character chunks.  It’s hard to follow, and nobody will re-tweet an essay.
  • Adding a URL is not terribly harmful by itself — but it takes up space in your tweet.
  • Try to use one hash tag at most.

Remember, though, nobody re-tweets you because you’ve kept your length to 27 characters.  They re-tweet you because you have written something compelling.  Start with great content, and then use these guidelines to produce the very best tweet you can.  You’ll maximize your chances of being re-tweeted, and maximize your engagement with your audience.