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Here’s how the UK election is playing out on social media

With just two weeks to go to election day in the UK, we analyse the sites and stories that audiences are responding to on social media. 

The UK’s snap election is just two weeks away today, and campaigning has played out largely online.  

From Prime Minister Theresa May using Facebook to rally her supporters for a Conservative vote, to opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn using a Facebook Live comments section to challenge his rival to a TV debate, much of this campaign has used social platforms as a springboard for connecting with the public at large.

Using NewsWhip Analytics, we’ve been able to look at social data to see how readers in the UK are responding to different stories during the campaign, and see how readers are engaging with different sites. 

 

How engagement with stories about the parties is stacking up

 

First, we looked at what engagement with articles about the two main party leaders, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, looked like. Setting the time range from May 1 up to May 24, here’s what the engagement graph looked like, counting all interactions on new stories mentioning either leader on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Social media engagement with articles about Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, May 2017


Overall, articles about Prime Minister Theresa May had over 1.67 million engagements, compared to 1.35 million engagements on articles about opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Engagement with articles about Theresa May peaked on May 8th and 9th, with some articles about her plans to hold a parliament vote to re-introduce fox-hunting in the UK. One Independent.co.uk article alone on the story saw almost 100,000 engagements.

Meanwhile, the most engaged stories about Jeremy Corbyn this month also came from Independent.co.uk, with details of his party’s plans to scrap tuition fees (63,700 engagements).

If we look at engagement around the main three parties themselves, we see a noticeable rise in engagement with content about the Labour party. Again, not all of this engagement comes from a ‘positive’ space, but does reflect the level of engagement with political coverage in the last few weeks on social media in the UK.

Social Media Engagement with Coverage of UK Political Parties, May 2017Labour’s engagement peak coincided with the leaking of their election manifesto on May 10th and 11th.

 

The sites getting the most engagement

 

Next we looked at the websites that are attracting the most engagement around election coverage.

To do this, we looked at content from sites categorised as being from the UK in our social database. In Analytics, we again limit results to content from the UK, and put in a search query looking for stories mentioning ‘election’ in combination with a term like ‘Labour’, ‘Brexit’, ‘Tory’, and so on. 

This search gives us a good overview of the sites that are attracting a lot of engagement around election stories on social media. These engagements are just on election related content posted on their website since May 1, rather than looking at interactions with native content like Facebook live videos and images.

Social Media Engagement with UK Election Publishers, May 2017
In this search, Independent.co.uk is out in front by a significant margin, boosted by a number of stories that went very viral in the last few weeks. The most engaged election related Facebook post from a publisher so far this month was an article from the Independent about how many young people had registered to vote.

This view in Analytics also allows us to look at the individual authors writing about the election that are attracting the most social media engagements. Again, the Independent have a very strong showing here – many of the most engaged writers were from the site.

The Guardian and the BBC also performed very strongly. Another site that has had a low output but very high average engagement rate is The Canary, a relatively new liberal politics site that had several pieces attract tens of thousands of engagements in May.

 

How the politicians’ Facebook pages compare

 

Finally, we looked at the Facebook pages of the main parties and politicians in the campaign to see how their followers were interacting with their messages.

We analysed the output of the main three parties Facebook pages. Looking solely at the main Facebook pages for Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, we see that Labour has by far the most engagement, with over 1 million interactions on their new posts since May 1.

Engagement with UK political parties’ Facebook pages, May 2017

 

Part of the reason that the Labour page is so far ahead is that is posted significantly more than both other sites over this period – 229 posts, compared to the Conservatives’ 67, and the Liberal Democrats’ 138. Labour published 153 videos on its main Facebook pages since May 1st alone.

Of the three parties, the most engaged post so far in May was Labour’s Facebook live stream of Jeremy Corbyn’s election manifesto launch on May 16th.

 

 

Looking solely at the match up between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May’s official Facebook pages, the gulf is again dramatic.

 

Engagement with UK party leaders’ Facebook pages, May 2017

Corbyn’s page posts more than May, but average engagements are much higher regardless. The page has been steadily increasing its engagement since the start of the month, peaking with over 265,000 on ten new posts in 24 hours on May 14th.

The spike for Theresa May on May 20th was for a lengthy status update commenting on Labour’s manifesto, which drew 40,000 engagements, including around 15,000 comments.

It’s not to say that these stats equate to electoral support for Labour – the party currently trail the Conservatives by between 9 – 14%, according to the latest opinion polls.

 

 

Sign up for a demo of NewsWhip Analytics today to see how to use social data. 

  • Arnie Saccnuson

    It would be fantastic to see the same data through until polling day on 8th june, but a great insightful article nevertheless considering the Conservatives apparently out spent Labour seven fold and this really underlines that spending doesn’t correlate to engagement, the product has to have some substance, as my farther use to say you cant make a silk purse out of a sows ear

    • Liam Corcoran

      Thanks Arnie. We’ll take a closer look at the aftermath of the election on social media in the coming days. The data certainly did indicate a high engagement rate with Labour content in the run-up to voting. Correlating that to actual voter intention is another story of course, but it raises interesting questions about the role of these platforms in spreading political messages.