How Twitter, Facebook processed last week's ACA ruling

Support swelled in initial hours, dissenters picked up steam on Friday

July 5, 2012

When the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last Thursday, millions of Americans turned to Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to air their feelings of elation or anger over the decision.

The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism in a special report analyzed the reactions, noting a swell of support in the first few hours followed by a counterattack from the law's opponents.

For the report, Pew researchers culled statements made about the ruling on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs from Thursday to Sunday. The statements included straight accounts of the ruling, predictions on its implications, and views on the law or the ruling.

Altogether, the researchers reviewed:

  • 2,133,392 statements on Twitter (18% supporting the ruling, 17% opposing it);
  • 82,770 on Facebook (29% opposing the ruling, 25% supporting it); and
  • 20,459 on blogs (19% opposing the ruling, 15% supporting it).

According to the report, "the tenor of the conversation changed over the four days following the ruling." Specifically, Pew researchers note that supporters overwhelmed dissenters on Twitter and (to a lesser extent) Facebook in the initial hours following the ruling.

However, dissenting statements outnumbered supporting statements on all three platforms by Friday, a balance that held through the weekend (Hanrahan, "Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 7/3; Pew report, 6/29; Pew methods, 6/29).

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