---- Reporting public opinion?
Online polls are great for engagement; they are lousy for capturing an accurate picture of public opinion.
Not everyone uses social media, and only a small percentage contribute their opinion to online discussions. Twitter is the "go-to" platform for opinion mining because it's perceived as being public. According to Statista (statista.com), as of January 2021, Twitter had 6.45 million users in Canada (Canada's 2019 population was 37.59 million).
Considering how Internet accessibility and digital literacy vary across Canada, a sample of opinions shared on social media is not even close to being representative of Canadian views.
Traditional journalism is rapidly dissolving. Journalists in 2021 are doing more with less as newsrooms shrink. To compete, journalists need to attract eyeballs, and therefore write clickbait articles. Thus journalists are becoming more opinionated, biased, and selective in which facts they report.
To acquire readers, headlines must be provocative and push emotional buttons. The goal is to stop you from scrolling through your feed -- and in many instances, to get you to climb their paywall first.
To write clickbait articles journalists are turning to social media to compile social media data. Social media data is obtained by using a social media application such as TweetDeck. Then, the "journalist" reports their "social media data findings" as public opinion. Journalists also report online comments as public opinion.
This is lazy journalism and one of the reasons why trust in news sources has eroded. The digital world isn't the real world. People believe what they see and experience, not what they're told.
It's easy to find like-minded people on the Internet and use their opinions to support your agenda, unlike traditional opinion polls, which take random population samples.
Journalists should explain how they obtain their data. When reporting what's trending on Twitter, explain that Twitter has an algorithm designed to decipher which topics are currently popular in particular regions and that individuals and groups can promote specific hashtags and topics to increase the likelihood of trending. Explaining how any data was compiled helps the reader contextualize the information. It will also gives a sense that the news is trustworthy and helps develop digital literacy.
To just report social media data as "public opinion" is irresponsible journalism.