Using Twitter to Track Public Sentiment in Iran After the Contested 2009 Election

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Word Category Usage as Proportion of Total Words
Major protests immediately
following the election
I – First-Person Singular Pronouns

By many accounts, social media played a pivotal role in the large-scale protests following the 2009 Iranian presidential election, enabling the opposition to communicate and coordinate under censorship. This interactive tool allows users to explore indicators of Iranian public opinion and mood as expressed over Twitter in the nine months following the election. The full report presents a detailed analysis of Iranian public opinion and mood, and explains how these data were derived. The authors analyzed a sample of tweets – short text messages posted on Twitter – using a novel, computerized methodology developed to examine politically oriented content in social media. The analysis revealed that, as of the end of February 2010, the opposition movement in Iran did not appear likely to protest against the government in the foreseeable future. This exploratory study indicates that particularly in countries where freedom of expression is limited, computerized analysis of content posted on social media can help to assess public opinion, forecast significant political trends and events, and shape U.S. outreach efforts.

Questions about this tool may be directed to Douglas Yeung at Douglas_Yeung@rand.org.

Word Category

Select a word category to view its usage in tweets marked with the #IranElection hashtag. The graph displays the proportion of words in each category relative to the total words used. Psychological research has shown that certain patterns of word usage are associated with attitudes, opinions, and psychological states. Roll over a word category for further details about each word category.

Political Figures and Events

Select a word or phrase corresponding to various political figures and events to view word use associated with them. Note, for instance, how public opinion may vary when people used different phrasings to refer to the same topic (e.g., “Iran” vs. “Islamic Republic”).

To view overall word use, check “All Political Figures and Events.”