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Pew: Gun Control Debates Dominate Social Media Following Newtown Tragedy

Calls for reform of gun control policies dominated the
social conversation in the wake of the tragic shootings at the Sandy Hook
Elementary school in Newtown Conn., according to a new study from Pew Research
Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) that analyzed social
conversations between Dec. 14 and Dec. 17. 

"On both blogs and Twitter, the gun policy discussion
accounted for almost 30% of the social media conversation examined by PEJ,
exceeding even prayers and expressions of sympathy in the three days following
the Dec. 14 massacre that left 26 dead at the Sandy Hook Elementary School,"
the report noted. "And, within that discussion, calls for stricter gun control
measures exceeded defenses of current gun laws and policies by more than two to

The analysis found that 64% of tweets and 46% of blogs
included calls for stricter gun control, compared to 21% of tweets and blogs
opposing new gun laws. About 14% of tweets and 32% of blogs were neutral.

The PEJ analysis of social media conversation used
technology from Crimson Hexagon, which provides tools for analyzing social
media conversations.

The report also noted that the recent shootings elicited a
quite different response than earlier incidents, including the Jan. 8, 2011,
shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six and seriously wounded Congresswoman
Gabrielle Giffords.

"In the first three days after that tragedy, the discussion
about our country's gun laws was barely present -- representing just 3% of the
social media conversation in all," the report noted. "Instead, bloggers and
Twitter users posted mainly about the heated political discourse in our country
and its possible relationship to the shooting. Similarly, in the social media
response to the shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in February 2012,
outrage at the alleged perpetrator and the role of race in the incident
overshadowed questions surrounding gun rights and Florida's Stand Your Ground

The report also noted that the shootings were also a top
news event on YouTube. PEJ noted that the most watched video by far was
President Obama's initial statement from the White House. That video was
watched over 7 million times in the first five days after the tragedy.

PEJ also analyzed newspaper editorials and op-ed pieces
following the shootings. Of the 52 examined, 25 called for gun reform and four
opposed new gun control rules.

The full report can be found here.