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EU Referendum – Can hashtags provide insights?

Written by Social Team | 19-May-2016 15:05:00

While the EU debate continues at pace, one thing is at least guaranteed - you are never more than six feet away from a hashtag. Yes, they make each of the campaigns appear up to date and digitally relevant, but we’ve been wondering whether these interactions provide useful indicators for measuring voting sentiment or whether they are a red herring skewing the data.

This week, we thought it would be interesting to have a look in closer detail around the officially promoted #voteleave and #strongerin campaign tags to see if we can glean any insights.

But before we do this, let’s have a look at our overall data this week.

Weekly Summary of Activity

Voting Intention/Predicted Result

Based on our data set there is a continuing small shift towards ‘Stay.’ Therefore week on week the projected gap between ‘Stay’ and ‘Leave’ has widened.

Regional Summary of Activity

As with our first week’s prediction, England is likely to become the key area of focus as data continues to identify other regions as leaning strongly towards ‘Stay’.

Key Topics Summary

This week’s social conversation continues to follow similar patterns to what we have seen across our overall data. ‘Jobs and Employment’ continues to be a main area for discussion; however questions across a range of broad issues will need to be addressed by each campaign to win votes.

The Official Hashtag Contest

So, back to hashtags…

After looking over the two campaigns’ main hashtags we have come up with a few interesting observations across the last few weeks.

Whose hashtags are gaining the most visibility?

Compared with #strongerin, #voteleave is currently winning the battle for overall visibility featuring in around twice as many tweets and total delivered impressions.

Are any campaigns gaining momentum?

Each main hashtag shows steadily increasing visibility. Recent momentum appears to be swinging slightly to #strongerin, with an average daily growth 4.8% in featured tweets, compared with 3.2% growth in #voteleave.

Which key topics are gaining traction?

As with our main data, a variety of varying topics feature across tweets containing main campaign hashtags. #Strongerin posts in particular are likely to feature ‘Business and Trade’ and ‘Job and Employment’ topics. ‘NHS and Public Services’ appear more frequently alongside #voteleave activity but again feature a strong selection of other topics.

Topic #strongerin #voteleave
Economy 10% 13%
Immigration 8% 13%
Laws and Regulation 12% 14%
Jobs and Employment 23% 14
Business and Trade 24% 18%
Security 5% 8%
Foreign Affairs 2% 1%
NHS and Public Services 9% 16%
Education and Research 5% 2%

Are hashtags being used in a proactive way?

Data currently suggests tweets incorporating campaign hashtags are broadly in support of the associated campaign. In other words, it appears that people choosing to include a campaign hashtag within their personal tweets are tweeting about that particular campaign in a positive light. Therefore, currently anyone searching for content using that campaign hashtag will find tweets in favour of that particular campaign.

In reality, hashtag users are only representative of a small proportion of the overall electorate, however trending data can provide some interesting areas of focus. Campaign agility is likely to be highly desirable as quickly changing trends offer only a small window of opportunity to gain ground.

Interestingly, the hashtags themselves are likely to generate much greater influence outside of direct Twitter use, acting as an abridged brand for each campaign and featuring in areas outside of the Twittersphere. It is this influence that is potentially more valuable to the campaigns as each strives for additional sound bites and visibility within the mainstream media.

Overall however it will take more than trending hashtags to make real inroads into winning votes on the 23rd of June.

Don’t forget to check back on the equimedia blog each week for our latest updates - you can check out our first post in the series below.

Other posts in this series

EU Referendum Week 1 - What does the data say?

EU Referendum Week 2 - Can hashtags provide insights?

EU Referendum Week 3 - When will the touch paper be lit?

EU Referendum Week 4 - Driving social followers

EU Referendum Week 5 - Will turnout be decisive?

EU Referendum Week 6 - Is social data underrepresenting female opinion?

EU Referendum Week 7 - Time for the undecided voters to make their decision

EU Referendum Reflection - Age the deciding factor