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Are US Twitter users more interested in church or beer? Geo-data experts aimed to find out…

Since the US went solo in 1776, breaking away from the Brits across the pond, the country’s population has ballooned, the nation filling with a multitude of nationalities from around the world, creating a population of enormous diversity with which few other countries can compare.

For a bit of Fourth of July fun, the geo-data experts over at the FloatingSheep website decided to compile a map using Twitter-generated data to take a closer, albeit light-hearted, look at regional differences across the country.

FloatingSheep’s team of analysts used geolocated tweets to build the map, studying around 10 million posted in the US between June 22 and 28. The researchers focused on those tweets that mentioned the word “church” (17,686 tweets of which half originated on Sunday) or “beer” (14,405 tweets, which were much more evenly distributed  throughout the week).

On the resulting map (above), counties which are shaded red denote those places where “church” had more mentions, while those shaded blue show that “beer” was, according to the tweets at least, more on the mind. White areas depict locations where neither word dominated, while gray areas indicate places for which data was unavailable.

Commenting on the results, FloatingSheep’s Monica Stephens wrote in a blog post, “San Francisco has the largest margin in favor of ‘beer’ tweets with Boston (Suffolk county) running a close second.”

She continued, “Los Angeles has the distinction of containing the most tweets overall (busy, busy thumbs in Southern California). In contrast, Dallas, Texas wins the FloatingSheep award for most geotagged tweets about ‘church’ with 178 compared to only 83 about ‘beer.’”

After running a statistical test with the data, FloatingSheep built a slightly different map (below), this time showing which counties with a large number of ‘church’ tweets are bordered by counties with similar patterns (shaded red), and which counties with lots of ‘beer’ tweets are bordered by counties tweeting along similar lines (shaded blue).This one shows a clear north/south divide on the eastern side of the country, with those in the north more likely to mention beer in their tweets, while church-based tweets reign supreme in the southern half, which, perhaps not surprisingly, covers an area roughly equivalent to the Bible Belt region.

“We also note that this map strongly aligns with the famous ‘red state’/’blue state’ map from the 2000, 2004, and 2008 elections,” Stephens wrote.

FloatingSheep’s beer/church exercise is part of its DOLLY (Data On your Local Life and You) project, which builds maps from social media and official data sources.

One of the group’s most famous creations is its ‘Beer Belly of America’ map, which indicates bar distribution throughout the US. The beer-occupied north-east features rather prominently on that map, too.