UPDATE:  updated  figures  and  variations  will  be  highlighted  in  this  document  each  week  –  and  you

  can  find  all  details  of  the  progress  of  the  experiment  at  our  site:  www.tweetminster.co.uk    


  Can  word-­‐of-­‐mouth  predict  the  General  Election  result?   A  Tweetminster  experiment  in  predictive  modelling  
  The  forthcoming  General  Election  is  probably  going  to  be  one  of  the  closest  in  recent   UK  history,  with  the  pollsters  suggesting  various  hung  parliament  and  minority   Labour  or  minority  Conservative  government  scenarios.  During  the  General  Election   campaign,  Tweetminster  is  conducting  an  experiment  around  whether  activity  on   Twitter  correlates  to  electoral  success.     Our  inspiration  for  this  experiment  comes  from  last  year’s  General  Election  in  Japan,   when  a  group  of  software  engineers  and  PhD  graduates  from  Tokyo  University   undertook  a  study  analysing  the  correlation  between  ‘online  buzz’  and  election   results.  The  aim  of  the  study  was  to  assess  if  word-­‐of-­‐mouth  mentions  of  candidates   could  help  to  predict  which  ones  would  be  successful.  The  study  found  that  in  a   majority  of  constituencies  the  most  mentioned  candidate  won  the  seat  (see   References  below).     We  thought  it  would  be  interesting  to  run  a  similar  experiment  to  the  Japanese   study  in  the  UK  using  Twitter.  From  now  until  the  election  we  will  be  tracking  the   most  mentioned  (i.e.  posts  and  conversations  about)  constituencies  and  candidates   on  Twitter  and  using  this  data  we  will  try  to  map  the  correlation  between  buzz,   word-­‐of-­‐mouth  and  the  eventual  election  results  through  predictive  modelling.     Today,  to  kick-­‐off  the  study,  we’re  publishing  a  starting  set  of  findings  and  the   methodology  that  we’ll  be  adopting.     This  paper  sets  out  the  initial  findings  of  our  experimental  model,  which  we  will   update  as  the  campaign  proceeds.    At  this  stage,  our  model  suggests  that  the  overall   election  result  could  see  a  small  Labour  majority  or  a  hung  Parliament,  with  the   closely-­‐fought  contest  between  the  Liberal  Democrats  and  the  Conservatives  in  a   number  of  marginals  in  the  South  West  tilting  towards  the  Lib  Dems;  with  Labour   and  the  Liberal  Democrats  performing  better  in  London  than  recent  polls  have   shown;  with  declining  SNP  support  in  Scotland;  and  with  the  role  of  other  parties  in   key  seats  all  influencing  factors  in  shaping  our  predictions.       Our  data  set  is  fed  from  all  the  constituencies  represented  on  Twitter:     1. Constituencies  with  a  candidate  using  Twitter   2. Frequently  mentioned  constituencies   3. High  profile  constituencies,  i.e.  key  marginals  and  cabinet/shadow  cabinet   members’  constituencies  that  are  mentioned  on  Twitter.      



  The  study  will  be  a  dynamic  analysis  -­‐  we  will  update  the  predictions  and  track  the   variations  in  predicted  election  results  as  polling  day  gets  closer,  allowing  us  to  see  if   the  passage  of  time  affects  any  significant  shifts  in  predicted  outcomes.    For   example:  Will  the  Leader’s  TV  debates  in  mid-­‐April  make  a  difference  to  today’s   predictions?     As  discussion  intensifies  towards  the  election  we  expect  to  see  the  model  reflect  any   changes  in  the  balance  of  online  buzz.     Two  million  tweets  (and  counting)  are  being  processed  and  analysed  for  this  study.   The  data  set  will  be  updated  as  new  candidates  join  Twitter  during  the  course  of  the   campaign,  findings  and  variations  released  throughout  the  campaign  and  the  final   report  will  be  published  after  the  election.     Please  note  that  the  scope  of  this  exercise  isn’t  to  compete  with  polling   methodologies  -­‐  it  is  an  experimental  study  that  aims  to  use  predictive  modelling   around  a  dynamic  data  set  to  determine  if  there  are  correlations  between  word-­‐of-­‐ mouth  on  social  media  and  election  results.  All  predictions  are  made  on  an   experimental  basis  and  the  reliability  of  the  method  for  predicting  election  results   will  be  assessed  once  the  study  is  completed.    

National  top-­‐line  figures  

As  of  March  26th  April  2nd12th  18th  May  4th  2010  there  were  376  384  389  402    427   433  constituencies  represented  on  Twitter.  To  predict  the  top-­‐line  national  figures   no  weighting  is  applied  -­‐  we  count  the  most  mentioned  candidate  in  each  of  the  376   402  427  433  constituencies  analysed  –  giving  a  first  past  the  post  prediction  which  is   then  evenly  applied  to  the  UK  as  a  whole.       This  reveals  the  following  top-­‐line  breakdown  based  on  frequency  of  mentions:       Conservatives   Labour   Liberal  Democrats   Others   34%  36%  35  33%   35%  33%  32%  30%   22%  23  28%  26%   9%  10  7%  9%  8%  (-­‐ 35%  35%  (nc)   30%  (nc)   27%  (+1)   1)     On  a  UNS,  this  would  translate  into  a  Labour  majority  of  c.14  seats  Labour  short  of   26  29  24  44  45  seats.  If  we  assume  a  similar  margin  of  error  of  the  Japanese  study,   the  range  of  results  for  the  whole  UK  suggested  by  these  numbers  give  us  various   hung  parliament  scenarios,  from  Labour  and  Conservatives  a  few  seats  short  of  a   working  majority  to  a  slim  Labour  majority  for  either  party.     The  full  analysis  behind  the  findings  is  presented  below,  following  constituency-­‐level   predictions.    

Constituency-­‐level  modelling  
For  constituency-­‐by-­‐constituency  predictions  the  only  weighting  that  we  will  apply   (to  the  frequency  of  mentions  analysis  above)  is  to  only  count  seats  where  at  least  



  one  candidate  from  the  three  major  parties  is  represented  and  mentioned  on   Twitter.     This  brings  down  the  number  of  constituencies  analysed  for  constituency  level   predictions  to  324  367.  Based  on  candidate  mentions  within  these  constituencies,   the  324  367  seats  would  be  distributed  in  the  following  way:     Conservatives   Labour   Liberal  Democrats   Others   126  148  131  138   135  151  142  138   54  55  83  79  77   10  9  11  12  14  seats   seats     seats     seats       Amongst  other  parties,  the  model  predicts:     • A  decline  in  SNP  support   • No  significant  change  in  Plaid  Cymru  support   • Strong  performances  for  the  Green  Party  in  Brighton  and  Norwich   • A  high  likelihood  of  a  Green  Party  MP  emerging  from  one  of  these   constituencies.  The  low  likelihood  of  an  Independent  MPs,  despite  a  couple   of  positive  performances.    

The  key  battlegrounds  

During  the  course  of  this  study  we  will  pay  close  attention  to  key  battlegrounds.  We   define  these  as  constituencies  where  the  difference  in  mentions  between  candidates   is  20%  or  less.  Several  initial  findings  of  interest  emerge  from  the  data  of  around  50   key  seats:     • An  important  number  of  seats  are  being  closely  contested  in  the  South  West   between  the  Conservatives  and  the  Liberal  Democrats.  The  metrics  adopted   in  this  study  show  that  in  many  of  these  seats  the  Liberal  Democrats  are   generating  greater  buzz.  This  buzz  figure  supports  the  strong  Lib  Dem  seat   prediction  in  the  top-­‐line  figures  above.  However,  it  is  worth  pointing  out   that  the  Lib  Dems  have  a  proportionately  higher  number  of  their  MPs  on   Twitter  compared  to  the  Conservatives  which  probably  means  the  actual   results  will  be  lower  than  predicted  for  the  Lib  Dems  and  commensurately   higher  than  predicted  for  the  Conservatives  in  these  seats.  Our  data  indicates   that  target  seats  represented  on  Twitter  include  Chippenham,  Mid  Dorset  &   North  Poole,  South  West  Norfolk  and  South  East  Cornwall.     • Brighton  Kemptown,  Brighton  Pavillion,  Luton  South,  Manchester   Withington,  North  Warwickshire,  Norwich  North,  Norwich  South,  South   Derbyshire,  Cambridge,  Gravesham,  Lancaster  &  Fleetwood,  Rochford,   Southend  East  and  Lancaster  &  Fleetwood  are  the  seats  on  Twitter  showing   the  narrowest  margins  between  the  various  parties  contesting  them.  This   indicates  that  they  are  the  ones  where  the  parties  are  most  actively   campaigning.  The  data  for  these  constituencies  would  also  indicate  strong   performances  for  the  Green  Party  in  Brighton  and  Norwich.  



  •   •

  Data  for  Scotland  anticipates  a  decline  in  recent  SNP  support  and  a  number   of  Labour  and  Liberal  Democrat  constituencies  targeted  by  the  Conservatives.   The  SNP  held  Angus  seat  will  be  a  race  to  watch.     The  data  indicates  that  the  Conservatives  will  perform  positively  in  the  East   Midlands  with  several  Labour  and  Liberal  Democrat  seats  swinging  their  way.   We  are  expecting  a  close  race  in  Lincoln.     We  predict  that  Labour  and  the  Liberal  Democrats  will  perform  better  in   London  than  recent  polls  have  shown.  However  indicators  show  strong   Conservative  campaigns  in  Bexley  Heath  &  Crayford,  Brentford  and  Isleworth,   and  Ealing  Central  &  Acton.   The  data  doesn’t  suggest  any  surprises  or  significant  changes  in  Wales  and   the  East  of  England.  



In  summary  -­‐  our  data  indicates  that  the  following  campaigns  -­‐       1)  Conservative-­‐Liberal  Democrat  contested  seats  in  the  South  West     2)  Labour  and  the  Liberal  Democrats’  performance  in  Scotland     3)  Other  parties,  especially  the  Greens  and  SNP  in  target  seats        -­‐  are  the  decisive  factors  in  shaping  our  predictions  and  possibly  the  General   Election  result.  

The  top-­‐influencers  
The  following  table  lists  the  10  most  influential  electoral  candidates  on  Twitter.  (NB.   Only  MPs  and  PPCs  are  included  in  our  study,  not  high  profile  influencers  like  the   Mayor  of  London  or  the  Prime  Minister’s  wife).    Influence  is  calculated  through  a   ratio  score  between  the  frequency  of  mentions  vs.  number  of  personal  tweets.    This   number  is  then  weighted  over  a  set  period  of  time  to  take  into  account  the  fact  that   each  candidate  signed  up  to  Twitter  at  different  times  and  therefore  have  different   total  volumes  of  mentions  and  tweets.     As  mentions  is  a  clear  indication  of  reach  and  public  engagement  we  believe  it  is  also   a  reasonable  metric  to  indicate  influence.     Tom  Watson   Labour   West  Bromwich  East   Nick  Clegg   Liberal  Democrats   Sheffield  Hallam   Eric  Pickles   Conservatives   Brentwood  &  Ongar   David  Miliband   Labour   South  Shields   Douglas  Alexander   Labour   Paisley  &  Renfrewshire   South   Jeremy  Hunt   Conservatives   South  West  Surrey   Hariett  Harman   Labour   Camberwell  &  Peckham  



Ed  Balls   Labour   Normanton   Vince  Cable   Liberal  Democrats   Twickenham   Louise  Bagshawe   Conservatives   Corby     The  updated  list  after  5  weeks,  shows  the  revised  order:  Nick  Clegg,  Tom  Watson,   Eric  Pickles,  David  Miliband,  William  Hague,  Vince  Cable,  Douglas  Alexander,   Jeremy  Hunt,  Ed  Balls,  Dr  Evan  Harris.      


Initial  Conclusions  

Week  1  prediction:  based  on  the  376  constituencies  modelled  a  small  Labour   majority  appears  the  most  likely  result.     Week  2  prediction:  based  on  384  constituencies  modelled  Labour  short  of  26  seats  is   predicted.  Constituencies  which  are  displaying  interesting  trends  this  week   include:  Hampstead  &  Kilburn,  Chippenham,  Morley  and  Outwood,  Glasgow  Central,   Mid-­‐Dorset  &  North  Poole,  Manchester  Withington,  Stourbridge,  Sutton  &  Cheam,   Westmorland  &  Londsdale,  Brentford  &  Isleworth,  Luton  South  and  Brighton   Kemptown.         Week  3  prediction:  based  on  389  constituencies  modelled,  Labour  short  of  29  seats   is  predicted.     Week  4  prediction:  based  on  402  constituencies  modelled,  Labour  short  of  24  seats   is  predicted.     Week  5  prediction:  based  on  427  constituencies  modelled  –  Labour  short  of  44  seats   is  predicted.     Final  prediction:  based  on  433  constituencies  modelled  –  A  hung  parliament  with   Labour  or  Conservatives  short  of  seats  is  predicted.     We  will  keep  track  of  the  data  and  metrics  outlined  in  this  document  over  the  weeks   covering  the  election  campaign  and  will  release  updated  results  and  analysis  during   the  course  of  the  campaign.     Following  the  elections  we  will  compare  the  predictions  against  results  and  present   the  completed  study  measuring  the  success  (or  lack  of  it)  for  the  predictive   modelling  approach  we  have  developed.  We  will  also  release  all  the  data  used  for   this  study,  including  a  constituency-­‐by-­‐constituency  comparison  between   predictions  and  results.       While  we  have  an  accuracy  rate  benchmark  from  a  similar  study  in  Japan,  we  are   keen  to  stress  that  this  study  is  an  experiment  into  predictive  modelling  and  we   cannot  claim  at  this  stage  the  level  of  accuracy  achieved  in  other  studies.      



  The  main  goal  of  the  Tweetminster  experiment  is  to  compare  mentions  and  word-­‐of-­‐ mouth  on  Twitter  with  election  results  to  determine  if  a  correlation  between  the  two   exists.    


The  Japanese  study  can  be  found  here:   http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-­‐ -­‐-­‐%208&layout=1&eotf=1&u=http://senkyo.kakaricho.jp/report1.html&sl=ja&tl=en  -­‐   translated  using  Google  Translate.    

About  Tweetminster  

Established  in  December  2008,  Tweetminster  is  a  media  utility  that  aims  to  make  UK   politics  more  open  and  social.     You  can  use  Tweetminster  to:     • Find  and  follow  MPs  and  PPCs  on  Twitter:  http://tweetminster.co.uk/     • Access  curated  lists  of  relevant  news,  commentary  and  politicians   http://twitter.com/tweetminster     • Measure  the  pulse  of  UK  politics  in  real  time:  dynamically  analyse  and  make   sense  of  information  and  data  around  political  conversations  and  news   stories:  http://search.tweetminster.co.uk/pages/about     Find  out  more:  www.tweetminster.co.uk      -­‐  Follow  us  on  Twitter:   www.twitter.com/tweetminster    -­‐  We’d  love  to  hear  your  feedback  and  thoughts  -­‐   get  in  touch:  wire@tweetminster.co.uk    



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