The battle has been raging for decades. Which is better, Wawa or Sheetz?

According to a new analysis, Twitter likes Sheetz better — unless you only look at tweets near Philly. And even then, it’s debatable.

At heart, the two convenience store chains aren’t that different. Both started in Pennsylvania (Altoona, Pa., and Folsom, Pa., respectively), and have since expanded into five or six other states. Both lead the way when it comes to elevating gas station food beyond greasy cheese curls and dried out jerky sticks. Both are beloved by their customers, who view their local shop as an essential part of life.

It’s partly because the two companies are so similar that the rivalry between the two brands is fierce.

The New York Times did a feature on matchup back in 2013, explaining to its readers that Western Pa. is Sheetz Country, while Eastern Pa. is basically Wawaland. The Gray Lady reporter did not form a definitive conclusion on which on was better, however.

That’s the promise of the forthcoming documentary, Sheetz vs. Wawa. Set to be released in 2019, the movie aims to settle the question of which is superior once and for all. How, exactly? Unclear, but filmmaker Matthew Fridg seems to be confident he can do it, using a combination of store visits and discussions with customers.

We decided to get a jump on the answer by peeking at the giant morass of unfettered public opinion called Twitter.

Using a set of open source scripts, Philly developer Ben Garvey (the same brilliant dude who helped find Indego’s most used bike) analyzed nearly 50,000 tweets containing the two brand names, and quantified how many were positive, negative or neutral.

The results were close — but overall, Sheetz appears to have an edge.

Looking at posts from users around the world, tweets containing “wawa” were 37 percent positive and 20 percent negative. Tweets with “sheetz,” on the other hand, were 38 percent positive and 19 percent negative.

That’s only the slimmest of margins. So when you look just at what Philly-area tweeters think, it should be a blowout in the other direction, right? Not exactly.

“People complain about Wawa all the time,” Garvey observed presciently before starting his study.

Indeed, when you narrow the range of tweets to within 15 miles of Philadelphia, Wawa does get a higher positive score — 23 percent, versus 22 percent for Sheetz. But it also gets a higher negative quotient, to the tune of 12.5 percent, versus just 11 percent negative for its Western Pa. rival.

There are a few caveats when looking at this data. We looked at only English-language tweets, but a few phrases in other tongues ended up mixed in — anyone know what language “wawa ka naman” is? Also, some of the tweets include both company names.

Lastly, sentiment analysis uses algorithms based on past information, and can’t tell if a user is actually being negative about the brand itself. In other words, the method is never perfect in its assessments.

All those potential pitfalls apply to both companies, however. So if you want Wawa to come out on top when it comes to Twitter love, only one thing to do: get your smiley emoticons ready and start tweeting.

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...