Analysing the 'Social Election'
It’s just one week till polling day. With fairly disciplined campaigning from all parties so far, levels of excitement around this election have hardly been groundbreaking. In fact, a YouGov poll earlier this month found that most people thought the campaign so far had been boring. While there have, of course, been attacks and counterattacks, it hasn’t been marred with major blunders or scandals from senior or prominent members of the political parties (so far, at least).
The picture on Twitter is never an accurate representation of the way that the final vote will look due to a number of biases, such as the left-leaning nature of the platform and the average age of those using it. But it does show us some interesting overall trends as we approach polling day.
As you can see from the graph below, Labour continues to lead when it comes to conversation volumes on Twitter, but has seen its share of voice drop over the course of the campaign. Since the first day of the campaign (30th March) until yesterday, there have been 5.3million conversations around the key political parties. Labour has generated 29% of this total – but it’s a decline since its 35% – 40% share of voice in first week of the campaign.
The main beneficiaries of this drop are the Conservative, UKIP and SNP parties, who have all seen increases in conversation over past couple of weeks. Notably, the SNP has now overtaken UKIP in total conversation volumes over the last week – an indication of interest in the pivotal role it could play in the overall outcome of the election.
Twitter conversation volumes during the campaign
In terms of sentiment trends, Labour has stopped experiencing high peaks and troughs at it did earlier in April, to generating a steady number of positive conversations of around 2,700 per day. The good news for the party is that as the campaign has progressed, the number of negative conversations around it has shown a downward trend (from 12,500 negative tweets per day early on in the campaign to around 9,000 this week). It seems people’s perceptions of Ed Miliband are starting to soften and become more favourable as time goes on.
When examining net sentiment (the sum of positive conversations minus negative conversations) on Twitter of the two main parties, you can see that while neither of them have managed to break into an overall positive score, Labour is performing well in comparison. Earlier on in the campaign there was little gap between the two, now Labour has established a clear lead over the Conservatives, an indication that Labour’s campaign strategy – at least when it comes to the Twitter audience – is more effective.
Conservative and Labour Party Twitter net sentiment during the campaign
One event that has excited the social media audience was the leaked picture on Twitter of Ed Miliband leaving the house of comedian and political campaigner Russell Brand, leading to the revelation that Brand was interviewing the Labour leader.
While it’s not Frost/Nixon, in the last three days it has garnered 550,000 views of the YouTube trailer, 57,500 conversations on Twitter and 23,000 uses of the #Milibrand hashtag – and just wait for the memes to roll in. The full interview, posted last night, has already hit almost 600,000 views.
While there’s been some criticism of Brand’s dominance over Miliband and of the politician suddenly developing an estuary accent, the Twitterati has mostly supported Miliband’s efforts to try and do something different to attract young voters.
Miliband adopting the Blair style Estuary English with Brand. Please just stop.
— Paddy (@Pads45N) April 29, 2015
Hey, elitist commentators sneering about Ed Miliband being interviewed by Russell Brand! How many disillusioned young people do you reach? — Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) April 28, 2015
While Cameron slags off Miliband for meeting Russell Brand, shall we just bear this in mind? pic.twitter.com/q0B18I9OFA
— Katy Brand (@KatyFBrand) April 29, 2015
More importantly, the interview has also added an element of spontaneity and excitement to the election. It’s shown that “new” media (if people still view a distinction between traditional and new media – surely it’s simply media) can play a role in touching hard to reach voters. Expect a backlash in the press.
the #Milibrand interview is made even better by the press panicking about losing their control over the agenda pic.twitter.com/U04mRz5IvB — dailyexpresslol (@dailyexpresslol) April 29, 2015
Politicians lambasted for not reaching out to youth. Ed M tries & he is smeared by increasingly irrelevant rightwing press. #Milibrand
— Andrew Spooner (@andrewspoooner) April 29, 2015
Time to think social
All in all, with just one week to go, for the most part it’s been a disappointing election when it comes to social, a missed opportunity for pretty much all the parties. Only Labour has really shown that it’s willing to take the plunge and try something different; but it smacks of too little, too late. I hope that by the time this opportunity comes around again, the parties will have started to think socially. Political campaigns should have social thinking at their heart – really understanding what people want to talk about and share – rather than the broadcast-led approach we’ve seen this time around.