SPIKES IN ATTENTION AND SHIFTS IN CONVERSATION
In the four months since the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, the tone of the conversation about gun control on Twitter has shifted sharply several times in apparent response to ongoing events, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of nearly 21 million tweets from December 18 through April 21.
In that period, the Twitter sentiment overall was almost balanced between those supporting stronger gun control measures (42% of the conversation) and those opposed (38%), according to the report. That is in contrast to the first three days after the December 14 attack when an earlier Pew Research report found that pro-gun control voices dominated their opponents 64% to 21%. But what stands out even more is the fluid nature of the debate on Twitter. In 10 of the 18 weeks studied, assertions favoring tougher regulations outnumbered those opposing; in seven of those weeks, the sentiment against a new law was more prominent. In one of those weeks, the mix was exactly even.
The findings also suggest that while pro-gun control forces dominated in the emotional and painful hours immediately following the attack, over time the conversation shifted to reflect the nation’s more divided view of gun control that has become evident in recent years. At the same time, one of the biggest shifts in Twitter opinion occurred the week of the April 17 Senate vote, when sentiment favoring tougher gun laws outstripped expressions of opposition by 3-1.