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The Pope Resigns, Twitter Reacts

12 February 2013

13 Feb 2013

Using the Cogito semantic software, Expert System analyzed a sample of over 110,000 tweets in English over the first 24 hours after the Pope’s resignation to understand not only the general theme of the reactions, but the people connected, as well as the sentiment, present in the tweets.

In addition to extracting trends in the tweets (such as terms and people most frequently mentioned), one of the advantages of our technology is its ability to look at relations between concepts. For example, when the term next was present in tweets, this graphic shows the other terms most frequently mentioned (highlighting some of the chatter about speculation around the ‘next’ pope):



To learn more about Peter Turkson, we can refer to the tweets specifically about him for more context:




Turning to other people mentioned in the tweets (after removing references to the pope, which were prominent in the results), we get a sense of the predominantly lighthearted tone in the tweets given the presence of political figures, actors, athletes and the photographer behind the famous lightning strike photo:


Because of the close connection between the Vatican and Italy and its politics, we also extended our analysis to a sample of tweets in Italian, where the themes were more reflective of history, and ties to Italian culture and political figures. New, politics, church, papacy, Vatican, Silvio Berlusconi, next, courage and gesture were the most prominent. Instead, the main topics in English echoed the news angle—the lightning strike photo, the Pope’s official Tweet, etc.


With the Italian elections coming up on February 24, it’s not surprising that politics would be a big focus of the Italian tweets. While Italy’s current candidates were infrequently mentioned in the English tweets, they show its former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi closely connected to the concepts of Italy, the church and the pope (as evidenced by the proximity of the terms), while the media speculates the impact on the pope’s announcement on his campaign.


Sentiment is identified in the tweets by considering not only the words and their role in a given phrase, but also their meaning in context. A slightly stronger positive sentiment was present in both the English and Italian tweets.


“The announcement of the Pope’s resignation sparked a wave comments on Twitter, becoming in a short time the top trending topic of the day,” said Luca Scagliarini, Vice President, Strategy & Business Development, Expert System. “Our semantic software allowed us to understand user’s reactions through the analysis of various aspects of the tweets, giving color to the range of topics being discussed during this historic event.”

Learn more about Cogito semantic technology.