07/30/2012 08:11 am ET

Penn State Scandal Conversation Shifts Toward Joe Paterno, Negative View Of Football Program: Pew Research

The release of the Freeh report -- an internal investigation into the Penn State University-Jerry Sandusky scandal -- helped create a strongly negative opinion of school's football program. However, it did little to shift users' opinions of Joe Paterno.

That's according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which looked at the discussion on Twitter before and after the Freeh report's release on July 12.

The Freeh report detailed a high-level cover up of sexual assaults by one-time assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on Penn State's campus. Contrary to what Paterno had claimed regarding his knowledge of Sandusky's assaults prior to his death, he was told of them multiple times and failed to report them, according to the investigation.

Before the Freeh report was released, 42 percent of the tweets about Paterno were positive. After the Freeh report came out, that number actually increased to 44 percent. Meanwhile tweets about the Penn State football program went from 40 percent being positive down to 22 percent.

joe paterno penn state chart

The Freeh report did have a significant impact, however, on how people on Twitter reacted to Penn State as a whole as well as to its football program. After the report, the volume of the Twitter conversation about the role of the school and the program increased markedly--from 10 to 18 percent of the overall discussion of the scandal. Moreover, the percentage of that discussion that was critical of Penn State and its football program jumped from 60 to 78 percent after July 12.

A majority of tweets between June 23-July 23 were straight-forward news, but about 18 percent were also discussing Paterno's legacy and whether it had tarnished.

Part of the reason many were discussing Paterno concerned the news events following the Freeh report. Paterno's statue was taken down, "Paternoville" was renamed, Brown University scrubbed JoePa's name from an award, his name was removed from a child care center. While Paterno's family spoke out against the report, it seemed that few people wanted to talk about Sandusky himself.

As time went on and new developments occurred, the man at the heart of the scandal -- former defensive coach Sandusky -- became less talked about on Twitter. Prior to the release of the Freeh report, discussion of Sandusky made up almost a quarter of the conversation (24 percent). But that decreased to 7 percent in the 10 days after the report was released and dropped even further (to 5 percent) in the day after the NCAA announced its penalties.

It should be noted just as many (18 percent) were also cracking jokes about the situation as there were discussions about Paterno.

The Freeh report included a review of 3.5 million documents and emails, with 430 interviews. People are still tweeting about their outrage -- not over the abuse -- but over NCAA's punishment of the football program and removal of Paterno's wins from 1998-2001.

Take a look at a sample of recent tweets to see how people are discussing Penn State:

Reaction On Twitter To Penn State Scandal And Support Of Joe Paterno

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