Thursday, 23 June 2016

#InOrOut: Today's #EURef Debate on Twitter

So what did the #EUReferendum debate look like today? Is Twitter still voting #Leave as it did back in May? What were the main hashtags and user mentions in today's tweets?

Tweet Volumes

Record breaking 1.9 million tweets were posted today on the #InOrOut #EUReferendum, which is between three and six times the daily volumes observed earlier in June. On average, this is 21 tweets per second over the day, although, the peaks of activity occurred after 9am (see graphs below). 1.5 million of those tweets were posted during poll opening times. In that period, only 3,300 posts were inaccessible to us due to Twitter rate limits. 

Since the polls closed at 10pm tonight, there was a huge surge in Twitter activity with over 60,000 posts between 10pm and 11pm alone.  Twitter rate limits meant that we could not access another 6,000 posts from that period. Since this is only 10% of the overall data in this hour, we still have a representative sample for our analyses. 

Amongst the 1.9 million posts, over 1 million (57%) were retweets and 94 thousand (5%) - replies. These proportions of retweets and replies are consistent with patterns observed earlier in June.   

Tweets, Re-tweets, and Replies: #Leave or #Remain

Let's start by looking at original tweets, i.e. tweets which have been posted by their authors and are not a reply to another tweet or a retweet. I refer to the authors of those tweets as the OPs (Original Posters), following terminology adopted from online forums.

My analysis of voting intentions showed some conflicting findings, depending on the way used to sample tweets  (details and trend graphs here). 

The gist is that, using @brndstr and “I voted XX” patterns both gave Remain a majority over Leave, but using our voting intention classification heuristic, the opposite was true (i.e. Leave was the more likely winner).  

In retweets, the #Leave proponents were more vocal in comparison to the #Remain.   

The difference is particularly pronounced for replies,  where #Leave proponents are engaging in more debates than #Remain ones. Nevertheless, with replies constituting only 5% of all tweets today, the echo chamber effect observed earlier in June still remains unchanged. 

#InOrOut, #Leave, #Remain and Other Popular Hashtags

Interestingly, 75% of all tweets today (1.4 million) contained at least one hashtag. This is a very significant increase on the 56.5% observed several days ago. 

Some of the most popular hashtags  remain unchanged from earlier in June. These refer to the leave and remain campaigns, immigration, NHS, parties, media, and politicians. Interestingly, there is now increased interest in #forex and #stocks, as predictors of the likely outcome. 

Most Mentioned Users Today: What is @Brndstr

Last for tonight, I compared the most frequently mentioned Twitter users in original tweets from today (see above) against those most mentioned earlier in June. The majority of popular mentioned users remains unchanged, with a mix of campaign Twitter accounts, media, and key political leaders.

The most prominent difference is that @Brndstr (Bots for Brands) came top (mentioned in over 14 thousand tweets), followed by @YouTube with 3 thousand mentions. Other new, frequently mentioned accounts today were Avaaz, DanHannanMEP,BuzzFeedUK, and realDonaldTrump.

So What Does This Tell Us?

The #InOrOut #EUReferendum has attracted unprecedented tweet volumes on poll day, with a significantly higher proportion of hashtags than previously. This seems to suggest that Twitter users are trying to get their voices heard and spread the word far and wide, well beyond the bounds of their normal follower  network. 

There are some exciting new entrants in the top 30 most mentioned Twitter accounts in today's referendum posts. I will analyse these in more depth tomorrow. For now, good night!  

Thanks to:

Dominic Rout, Ian Roberts, Mark Greenwood, Diana Maynard, and the rest of the GATE Team 

Any mistakes are my own.