The UK General Election was one of the most anticipated events this year. The election, called 3 years early by Theresa May with the hopes of winning a commanding majority in the House of Commons turned out to be hotly contested compared to what was expected to be an easy victory.
As with the Brexit vote, our analysis of Facebook and Twitter engagement in the election campaign revealed seeds of change in voting behaviour. We tracked social media activity on Facebook and Twitter towards parties and leaders from 1st May up to the days before the vote. Sentiment across social media towards the Conservative Party dipped to just 37% in the final days prior to the election. This indicated a dissatisfaction that ultimately led to a hung parliament.
Overall, the Conservative Party lost 6 percentage points in social sentiment from the start of the period and 21 points from its peak. Throughout the final days of the campaign, May managed an average engagement sentiment of just 43.5%.
Key moments for the Parties
The busiest day on social media for Theresa May and the Conservatives was on 22nd May, with 309,234 engagements across Twitter and Facebook. On this day the Prime Minister announced a U-turn on lifetime care costs following widespread protests that more families would be forced to sell the homes of pensioners paying for their care.
Jeremy Corbyn drove the most engagements for the Labour Party (304,976) on 5th June, when he called for the Prime Minister to quit over police cuts in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
Sentiment towards the Green Party peaked on 9th May, just after the party complained to the BBC about ‘disproportionate’ coverage of UKIP following local elections.
Correlation between social media and election results
Traditional polling methodologies are based on self-reported behaviour that increasingly fail to predict election outcomes. Social media engagements more accurately reflect the sentiment of the populace and enable real-time assessment of the momentum behind political leaders, parties, and policies. In recent elections, our analysis of social media data has proven to be highly correlated to outcomes including the leave vote majority in the EU Referendum and Donald Trump winning the electoral college in the race for U.S. President.
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