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updated 7/21/2011 5:49:27 PM ET 2011-07-21T21:49:27

Republicans and Tea Party members used social media more effectively than Democrats during the 2010 midterm elections, a new study suggests.

A study from the University of Michigan found that conservatives were top tweeters of last year’s election period, as nearly a quarter of online adults used social networks including Twitter to engage with the election.

"The conservative candidates — Republicans and Tea Party members — definitely used Twitter more visibly and showed a more coherent set of messages and topics," said Eytan Adar, assistant professor in the School of Information and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

"They also followed each other much more closely. I think it's fair to say they were much more cohesive in a lot of ways and at the end of the day that makes for a stronger campaign."

Conservatives, who made major gains in the 2010 midterm elections, tweeted about similar topics and conveyed a coherent message with a particular attention to economic issues, the researchers found.

The top terms in Republicans' posts were "spending," "bills," "budget," "WSJ" (Wall Street Journal), "Bush" and "deficit."

Over the study period, Republicans tweeted an average of 723 times, while Democrats posted less frequently with an average of 551 tweets. Top terms from liberals were "education," "jobs," "oil_spill," "clean_energy," "Afghanistan," and "reform."

The study narrowed in on the posts of self-identified Tea Party members. Despite its grassroots nature, the Tea Party appeared to be running an organized campaign, the report said. Not only did members tweet more often, averaging 901 tweets during the study period, they exhibited behaviors suggesting a stronger community than their counterparts.

Tea Party members retweeted one another more often, rebroadcasting a colleague's message an average of 82.6 times, compared with 52.3 retweets for Republicans and 40 for Democrats. They used hashtags (keywords used to categorize tweets) an average of 753 times, compared with Republicans' 404 times and Democrats' 196.

The researchers suggest this may be because the Tea Party members joined forces on Twitter to attack key Democrats. Among the party's most popular terms were "Nancy Pelosi," "Barney Frank," and "Clinton."

However, the researchers found that overuse of Twitter might not correlate with better election performance. In fact, over usage might even deter the targeted audience, the report said.

The study examined how Twitter behaviors could help predict election winners. By looking at the content of candidates' tweets, the number of followers they had, and whether the candidate was an incumbent, they were able to predict election outcomes with 88 percent accuracy.

Reach TechNewsDaily senior writer Samantha Murphy at smurphy@techmedianetwork.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Follow her on Twitter @SamMurphy_TMN

 

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