Newtown Killings Draw Bigger Online Outcry Than Giffords Shooting, Study Says

Gun control debate dominates 30 percent of social media conversations following the Newtown shootings

Twitter and other social media platforms erupted after a school shooting at a Connecticut elementary school left 26 people dead, most of them children.

In the wake of the killings, debate over America's gun policy accounted for 30 percent of social media discussion, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. Given the scope and scale of the tragedy and the targeting of elementary school students, the response isn't surprising, and it far outstripped the response to other recent mass shootings.

Following the 2011 shooting outside an Arizona mall that killed six people and wounded Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords, the social media response was far more muted, Pew said.  In the days after that shooting, debate over gun control was virtually nonexistent and accounted for  3 percent of social media conversation.

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Pew also examined the response to the Connecticut killings on opinion pages across the country, and found that calls for stricter gun regulations dominated the editorials. Of the 51 pieces it examined, they favored new gun control over keeping current rules by a margin of more than six to one.

On Twitter, the debate was again weighted in favor of more gun regulations, by a three-to-one margin, with 64 percent of tweets calling for reform. Twenty one percent of Twitter responses were in favor of gun rights and 14 percent were neutral. 

Pew did not elaborate on its methodology for tracking Twitter conversations, beyond saying it used technology from the firm Crimson Hexagon, which follows social media responses.