Live Twitter Analysis

The aforementioned rise in the use of social media presented both fresh challenges and opportunities for politicians, commentators, and pollsters alike during the 2015 General Election campaign. Elsewhere in this volume (see Chap. 24), Steven Ginnis and Carl Miller undertake a detailed examination of the role of Twitter in the Election campaign, highlighting how social media has gone some way to changing the nature of political debate in Britain. As part of an ongoing project funded by Innovate UK (Ipsos MORI 2015f), along with the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM) at Demos, Ipsos MORI conducted live analysis of the discussion on Twitter during both debates using a new form of social media analysis based on natural language processing.

Twitter analysis gave us access to hundreds of thousands of views and opinions during the course of the debate, with our work alone analysing 370,000 Tweets during the 2 April Leaders’ Debate. However, it is crucial to remember that, despite the volume, Twitter is far from representative of the views of the population as a whole. For example, we know that 75% of Twitter users are under the age of 45, and 69 % are in social grades ABC1 (Ipsos MORI 2015e). Indeed, looking at political conversations specifically, the research conducted as part of our Road to Representivity project highlighted the challenges with using Twitter to understand political conversations. This research showed that 33% of Tweets about Cameron and Miliband over two weekends in the build-up to the General Election came from just 1% of Twitter users, highlighting the comparatively small number of contributors this conversation actually represents, above and beyond the challenges with the representativeness of Twitter users generally (Miller et al. 2015). Nonetheless, used alongside other techniques, it served as a useful measuring stick for the performance of the respective leaders during the debates.

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