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New Post Pope Perceptions Report – Public Sentiment Analyzed

Luca Scagliarini - 8 October 2015

Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States was both historic and captivating. For more than a week it was the topic on nearly every news outlet as well as dominating social media. Americans of all beliefs took to social media, particularly Twitter, to express and share their sentiments, reactions and emotions over the Pope’s visit. How did Americans respond to the Pope’s visit? Was there an overall theme or dominant emotion displayed? Did Pope Francis say anything that particularly resonated with Americans?

To answer these questions, we used our expertise in cognitive computing to analyze more than 35,000 Tweets that were posted during Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Using natural language processing, we were able to analyze a ton of data and extract intelligent and meaningful insights into American’s true sentiments on a wide variety of issues ranging from the heavily debated and highly sensitive topics like immigration, sexual abuse, gay rights, the environment and the poor, to the more lighthearted topics including the Popemobile, gifts exchanged and Papal visits of the pasts.

What did we find? A lot. Overall we found that Pope Francis did make a positive impression on Americans. 68% of the overall sentiment was positive with good (1847), great (1254), human (905) and social (699) at the top of list. This indicates that the Pope was successful in stirring up favorable emotions in the American public and having an overall positive impact on many people.

Some of the key data discussed in the Expert IQ report include:

  • Focus on the family unit emerged as top theme among audiences. Used to describe aspects of the Pope’s visit, family (2126) and the related World Meeting of Families (WMF2015) (3490) are at the center.
  • Pope Francis’ stance of forgiveness as it relates to some of the most sensitive issues in the church such as abortion (352) generated sentiments tied to forgiveness (61), forgive (55), absolve (9).
  • On the topic of sexual abuse (188) many promoted the need for support (315) and justice (281) for abused people.
  • Sentiment related to Kim Davis turned out to be more so on the negative side (61%) with the most common thoughts tied to words of absurd, awfully, relentless, wrongly, threat, monstrous.
  • Sentiment tied to capitalism (179) became associated to negative terms (poverty 405, evil 61, destruction 58) indicating that, in general, society still perceives that profits generated by the free markets are not doing enough to address these issues at hand.
  • Americans seemed to approve of the Pope’s mode of transportation with the choice of using a Fiat 500 (56) correlated to compact (2)/small (23)/little (20), humble (25)/ modest (10), economic (38).


While the data is intriguing from a pure analysis standpoint, think about it now from a competitive and strategic business standpoint.   Being able to quickly analyze the true meaning behind all those posts can be incredibly valuable when it comes to making business decisions such as where to place targeted advertising investments, where more education programs need to be put in place or how one’s brand is being perceived in the marketplace. It becomes no longer interesting, but rather a critical business asset.

Author, Luca Scagliarini.