Twitter sentiment predicts Affordable Care Act marketplace enrollment

J Med Internet Res. 2015 Feb 23;17(2):e51. doi: 10.2196/jmir.3812.


Background: Traditional metrics of the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and health insurance marketplaces in the United States include public opinion polls and marketplace enrollment, which are published with a lag of weeks to months. In this rapidly changing environment, a real-time barometer of public opinion with a mechanism to identify emerging issues would be valuable.

Objective: We sought to evaluate Twitter's role as a real-time barometer of public sentiment on the ACA and to determine if Twitter sentiment (the positivity or negativity of tweets) could be predictive of state-level marketplace enrollment.

Methods: We retrospectively collected 977,303 ACA-related tweets in March 2014 and then tested a correlation of Twitter sentiment with marketplace enrollment by state.

Results: A 0.10 increase in the sentiment score was associated with an 8.7% increase in enrollment at the state level (95% CI 1.32-16.13; P=.02), a correlation that remained significant when adjusting for state Medicaid expansion (P=.02) or use of a state-based marketplace (P=.03).

Conclusions: This correlation indicates Twitter's potential as a real-time monitoring strategy for future marketplace enrollment periods; marketplaces could systematically track Twitter sentiment to more rapidly identify enrollment changes and potentially emerging issues. As a repository of free and accessible consumer-generated opinions, this study reveals a novel role for Twitter in the health policy landscape.

Keywords: affordable care act; health insurance marketplace; social media.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States