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Abstract

The microblogging site Twitter generates a constant stream of communication, some of which concerns events of general interest. An analysis of Twitter may, therefore, give insights into why particular events resonate with the population. This article reports a study of a month of English Twitter posts, assessing whether popular events are typically associated with increases in sentiment strength, as seems intuitively likely. Using the top 30 events, determined by a measure of relative increase in (general) term usage, the results give strong evidence that popular events are normally associated with increases in negative sentiment strength and some evidence that peaks of interest in events have stronger positive sentiment than the time before the peak. It seems that many positive events, such as the Oscars, are capable of generating increased negative sentiment in reaction to them. Nevertheless, the surprisingly small average change in sentiment associated with popular events (typically 1% and only 6% for Tiger Woods' confessions) is consistent with events affording posters opportunities to satisfy pre-existing personal goals more often than eliciting instinctive reactions.