What Twitter Tells Us About the UK’s Brexit Debate

Jenny Force Jenny Force, VP of Marketing

The race towards Britain’s European Union referendum has begun. With a date for the nation to vote on its future relationship with Europe set for June 23, the Stay and Leave camps have drawn their battle lines – so naturally, we turned to Sysomos MAP to analyse some of the conversations happening on Twitter surrounding the debate during this past week.

First we looked at overall volume of people in the UK discussing the EU referendum, which showed us that while there was an unsurprising spike over the past week (peaking at around 95k tweets), the issue has actually been gradually heating up over recent months.

Brexit Overall Twitter Volume

Between the 15th and 22nd of February, the week David Cameron went to Brussels to secure a new EU deal for Britain, there were a total of 366,700 overall mentions of the issue from UK Twitter users, achieving over 7 billion impressions in total.

Next we wanted to get an idea of how Twitter users feel about a potential Brexit. Turning focus on tweets that contained any hashtags explicitly for or against the UK leaving the EU (e.g. #voteleave or #strongerin), we charted activity over the course of the past week and saw very clearly that both sides of the debate are neck and neck in terms of volume.

Stay vs Leave

In order to understand what the most important issues in this debate are, we then separated all of the tweets about the Brexit from the ones which also mentioned any of the following key topics (based on keywords related to those themes).

Issues

This showed us that far more people are concerned about the trade and economic implications than any other issues, with immigration and asylum seekers firmly at the bottom of the chart.

We also leveraged MAP to analyse the different influencer communities talking about this issue on Twitter, enabling us to identify different clusters of Twitter users who are talking about the issue in the same way, and/or engaging and influencing each other. (It’s quite a big image, so click on the thumbnail to see the full size version)

Brexit Twitter Influence MAP

What this map tells us is that during this first week of the debate, the Conservative Party seems to be owning the discussion. That big blue cluster at the top of the chart is centred on a lot of Tory voices. By contrast, the Labour Party and SNP have very little visibility in the overall conversation. UKIP, the single issue party focused on getting Britain out of the EU, has a slightly larger presence in the discussion.

That the conversation is dominated so heavily by the Tories lends weight to the argument that at present, the UK has a single-party political landscape with no effective opposition. The orange cluster on the map is largely made up of national and international media reporting on the story.

Clearly this is the year’s biggest story in the UK, and there are likely to be lots of interesting developments between now and June 23. As we get closer to the date, we’ll share more analysis on how the debate plays out in social media. And if we’re feeling brave, we might even be tempted to make a prediction about the referendum results.

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