Twitter Opinion on Debt Ceiling



Here’s how we got there….

Since the debt ceiling fiasco began, nation-wide outrage toward Washington has been at an all time high. Naturally, here at Texifter, we decided to put our software to work and to utilize DiscoverText to collect politically charged Tweets at around the time of the senate vote.  And while we know where most politicians stand on the issue, we decided to use DiscoverText sentiment classification to better understand where the majority of Americans stand.

We collected all tweets with the key words, “Democrat,” “Republican,” “Tea Party,” “Obama,” and most importantly, “Debt Ceiling.” “Tea Party” proved to be the most mentioned of the three parties, with over 11,000 references at the time of the vote, while “Obama” trumped all parties with over 38,000 tweets. However, the term of the hour, “Debt Ceiling,” which many did not even know existed until last week, registered an impressive 15,000 tweets.

To gauge the sentiment of the 15,000 “Debt Ceiling” tweets, we used a very straight-forward coding scheme. This included the codes “Approval,” “Disapproval,” and “Other.” Using the Cloud Explorer, we were able to view the most popular terms used in conjunction with “Debt Ceiling.”  While we expected “Tea Party” and “Obama,” we did not expect to see “Giffords” and “Gabrielle.” The returning representative seemed to have garnered celebrity status on Twitter, as she was mentioned in over 1,500 tweets, in addition, when coding, I found her to be the main subject of many tweets, with the debt ceiling being secondary. Interestingly, these tweets seemed to have an overwhelming positive sentiment, while other member of congress, and President Obama seemed to be almost always associated with poor sentiment.

Our classification report revealed that 40% or 6,018 tweets expressed disapproval with the debt ceiling, while 31% (or 4,650) expressed approved.

We also utilized an “Other” category, in which tweets neither approved nor disapproved, but simply commented on the matter; this characterized 28% of the 15,000 classified tweets.

Therefore, of those 10,668 tweets that expressed a specific opinion on this contentious issue, we concluded that 44% approved while 54% disapproved of raising the debt ceiling….(See: pie chart above)

Now let’s compare our numbers with Zogby’s…. When asked, “Do you agree or disagree that the U.S. Congress should raise the debt ceiling?” 42% Agreed, 50% disagreed, 8% were unsure. (with a margin of error of +/-2.1%). Take that Zogby!

In the coming weeks, we will continue to harvest tweets, which are pertinent to the political and cultural clashes that are taking place in America. As new metrics are calculated, we will continue to report them.  If you have any questions or requests for specific metrics, do not hesitate to contact us.


About Joseph Delfino

Joseph Delfino is responsible for business development at Texifter. He has been working with DiscoverText since January of 2011 when he started testing the DiscoverText user interface in the QDAP Lab. His favorite retired DiscoverText tool is the Splicer. Joe is a big film fan, with his favorites being foreign films, documentaries, and anything set in a future dystopian landscape. You can reach Joe on Twitter @_delfino_ and through email at
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