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Online Trends

Published January 31st 2020

The UK’s Emotional Brexit Journey

On the day Britain leaves the EU, we looked at how online sentiment and emotion has changed since referendum day in 2016. Sadness dominated. Some celebrated. But no one was surprised.

On the 23 June 2016, Britain voted to leave the European Union. On the what has been dubbed ‘Brexit day’ (the day Britain leaves the EU) we look at what social had to say about the talking points, so far.

It’s important to say so far, because the deadline for final agreements is 11pm (GMT) so we are likely to see even more developments.

Using Brandwatch’s Consumer Research we scoured the internet for sentiment segmented conversation, and the emotional response, from 23 June 2016 to 12pm on 31 January 2020. We wanted to see when emotions were running high.

Sentiment analysis of Brexit

Searching for mentions of Brexit and #Brexit, we observed worldwide data from 23 June 2016 to 12:45 pm on 31 January 2020, there were 318M total posts.

Overall there were more negative than positive conversations.

Using Brandwatch’s AI assistant Iris, we were able to understand what caused the biggest spikes in conversation.

What caused the biggest spikes? 

  1. Negative sentiment spiked by 250% on the 1 September 2019, when parliament was prorogued.
  2. It spiked from its usual level again, by 205% on 20 March when Prime Minister Theresa May failed to get a deal and on 21 of March when #RevokeArticle50 started trending because of a public petition.
  3. While the spike in June of 2017, was attributed to the 2017 general election, when Theresa May lost the conservative party majority.

Sentiment of public social media posts about Brexit

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | 23 June 2016 to the 31 January 2020

An emotional issue

We were also able to breakdown 101M mentions by emotion.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, sadness was the top emotion on social.

Emotion in public social media posts about Brexit

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | 23 June 2016 to the 31 January 2020

Using our AI assistant Iris again, we discovered the most pivotal emotional moments.

  • Sadness spiked past its usual level, by 218%, on 21 March 2019 in reaction to the #RevokeArticle50 petition. Disgust also spiked from its normal level by 170% because of the petition. As did posts from people angry the petition existed, by 306%.
  • Sadness spiked from its usual level again by 186% on the 31 May 2019, when Theresa May announced her resignation publicly. And then again by 208% on 1 September 2019 when parliament was prorogued.
  • Sadness spiked by 200% in reaction to the General Election result on the 12 December 2019; as did disgust, which rose 258%.
  • Disgust rose by 249% when the Supreme court ruled Johnson’s suspension of parliament was unlawful on 24 September 2019.

There were no significant spikes for fear or joy, or surprise. Which probably isn’t a surprise because most people were sad or joyful…

How does the journey end?

Today is Brexit day and the conversation has turned dramatically. Where sadness was raining, and negativity reigning, positivity seems to be the order of the day.

Today, of sentiment segmented conversation, 65% of the conversation was positive and 35% was negative (84K posts.)

This is the only day positivity around Brexit has taken over negativity on social since the referendum itself on the 23 June 2016.

While some are joyful that we’re leaving today, others are just stating they have been proud have been a part of the EU.

Of course the conversation remains divided.

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