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The UK General Election and the Internet

31 May, 2015
By Allison Orr

The Oxford Internet Institute has been looking at recent general election in the UK, particularly given the how wrong all the opinion polling was in the lead-up.  Are there better ways to gauge public opinion than traditional polling?  Can social activity online better predict election outcomes?

In the lead-up to the election, The Elections and the Internet Team collected Twitter, Wikipedia, YouTube and Facebook data on major parties, looking at political hashtags and the Twitter accounts of MPs.  The picture they produced on the night of the election was a mixed picture.  It predicted some results – that the Liberal Democrats were weaker than the two major parties, while the SNP were stronger – and also showed stronger results for the Tories on Wikipedia.  But a simple mention count per constituency produced a highly inaccurate picture.

A result that will be of interest to political campaigners shows that the levels of effort Labor put into Twitter didn’t translate into electoral success.

The results so far show that using social media to predict election results is exceedingly difficult.  Voters of different parties use social media in different ways, and any predictive model would need to factor this in.

The research team intends to continue looking at the data in more detail.

Previously published in undefined.

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