More Evidence that People are Still Talking about Gun Control

Apropos of John’s post from earlier in the week, here’s some additional evidence that people are still paying attention to the issue of gun control a month out from the Newtown tragedy:

The data are from a collection of 5 million + tweets that we’ve collected at the NYU Social Media and Political Participation (SMaPP) lab since the shooting that contain a number of related keywords, including the six on the graph. While the data are still in a crude format (e.g., nothing in the figure shows whether tweets are supportive of the NRA or opposed to the NRA when they include “NRA” in their tweet), one pattern is quite clear. Even as tweets directly related to the Newtown shooting have tailed off (i.e., those containing the hashmarks #ctshooting or #PrayForNewtown) people are still talking about the political/policy implications (i.e., gun control, NRA, 2nd Amendment).  This therefore extends the initial observation we made about this pattern after three days of tweets (here and here) to more than a month’s worth of tweets.

What’s interesting about this is that it provides at least some rudimentary evidence that it is not just those in the media that are continuing to talk about topics such as gun control; it is the mass public as well.  That being said, the biggest boost in the discussion of the issue by the mass public (the second set of peaks on the right part of the figures) came following President Obama’s gun control speech on January 16th, suggesting that while the public remains interested, elites (and especially the president) can play an important role in sustaining that interest.  Of course, the data (which show tweets on “gun control” trending up before the President’s speech) are also consistent with a world in which public opinion may have encouraged him to act as well.

[Figure by Pablo Barberá; data from NYU S MaPP lab.]

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

Joshua Tucker

Joshua Tucker is a Professor of Politics at New York University.