Where Did All Those Racist Anti-Obama Tweets Come From? Here’s the Science

A group of scientists has mapped the offensive messages, with a proponderance coming from pro-Romney red states.

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A man reads a tweet from Barack Obama on Nov. 7, 2012, after Obama's re-election as U.S. President

The racist social-media comments that greeted Barack Obama’s re-election on Tuesday ran the gamut from the ignorant to the hateful. Now a group of academics at the Floating Sheep blog has taken some of the worst statements on Twitter — which the group calls “some of the nastiest tweets you might possibly imagine” — and projected them onto a map of the U.S. The result? Nine of the 10 worst states, by number of racist comments, went to Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the Nov. 6 election.

The researchers — the blog is run by geography scholars mostly based in the U.S. — selected hundreds of racist remarks from the final week of the election campaign and correlated the geotagging information embedded in them to the states they originated from. Alabama and Mississippi scored worst, with eight times as many racist tweets as the national average, according to the study. Georgia, North Dakota, Louisiana, Tennessee, Missouri, West Virginia and Minnesota all ranked three to four times above the national average in terms of prevalence of racist tweets. Among those 10 states, only Minnesota voted for Obama.

(MORE: The 15 Most Memorable Tweets of Election Night)

The authors of the study are quick to point out that they measured only tweets, not individuals, so it’s possible that a small group of disaffected bigots could be accounting for the majority of the offensive messages. Also, they note that some states with low levels of racist tweets also have relatively low levels of Twitter usage in general. However, the geographers write, their findings “support the idea that there are some fairly strong clustering of hate tweets centered in southeastern U.S. which has a much higher rate than the national average.” They continue:

But lest anyone elsewhere become too complacent, the unfortunate fact is that most states are not immune from this kind of activity. Racist behavior, particularly directed at African Americans in the U.S., is all too easy to find both offline and in information space.

The Floating Sheep bloggers have previously mapped the price of marijuana and the prevalence of escort services across the U.S. and, with mixed success, attempted to predict the outcome of the presidential elections through Twitter.

Mitt Romney won the election among white Americans by a 22-point margin. Just 1 out of 10 Republican voters were nonwhites, the Washington Post reported.

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