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Published May 5th 2011

Voting Referendum: Social Media says 'yes' to AV

As things stand, the nation’s media, pollers and bookmakers are all pretty confident that, today on Thursday 5th May, the UK public will say no to AV in the Alternative Vote Referendum:

“The signs are that the No campaign is not just going to win, but win big”
Sky News

“Rejecting the alternative vote by a two to one majority”
The Guardian

Even amongst Labour, 60% say no and 40% say yes

Figures from the bookies suggest they’re just as certain (Thursday 5th May, 9am):

What does social media have to say?

At Brandwatch, we didn’t think the round up of these polls would be complete without an analysis of social media.

We ran two searches, one covering all statements, utterances and hashtags of an anti AV nature and one covering everything pro AV. The results have been gathered and verified and are ready to be announced:

So, if the referendum was left solely in the hands of those dwelling on social media, it seems we would shortly be witnessing the announcement of a new voting system in the UK.

However, before any pro AV parties get too excited about this indication, it’s important to recognise the current limitations of this kind of analysis in this particular area. Even leaving aside the rather decided signals from the media and the bookmakers, we should consider how valid the social media results we’ve seen are.

The Vocal Revolutionaries:

One of the key points is that we are analysing the volume of ‘chatter’ or ‘buzz’ here. It’s not surprising that the parties interested in change as opposed to conservation are more vocal and outspoken about their opinions; in many ways, they are the ones with the work to do.

Socialist Media?

Secondly, we have to take into account the nature and potential bias of the source here. Generalising rather heavily politically (and perhaps slightly unfairly), it’s common to observe that the forces of Twitter have a tendency to follow a more liberal, change-seeking path than the country as a whole does. There is some support for this claim too if we look that the fact that 64% of the ‘Say Yes to AV’ mentions come from Twitter when only 53% of the ‘Say no’ mentions do. On top of that, at the time of writing this (10.31am) ‘#votelabour’ is a top trending topic – strangely no sign of ‘#votetory’ or anything similar… And finally, Nixon McInnes show us the live figures for two particular hashtags.

What can social media add?

As well as the limitations to this analysis, there are also features and benefits that can’t be matched by traditional forms of prediction. The conventional methods of of surveying, measuring and polling can’t gather data that constantly updates, in real-time, like our social media monitoring data does and it can’t cover as much ground either. Though it might not prove to be the most accurate form available, could it provide a hint at what the future might hold for political forecasting?

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