17 April 2010

Clegg mania continues

UPDATE: As of 21:33 on 18 April, Clegg now has more fans than Cameron on Facebook, having gained more than 10,000 since Thursday night

Confirming the difference a televised debate can make, the surge in media coverage around Nick Clegg has also resulted in a dramatic rise in online searches for the Liberal Democrat leader. Mentions of Clegg have also risen almost exponentially across all social media, driven largely by Twitter.

Almost twice as many users are now following Clegg on Twitter as a result, making him the most followed British politician on the micro-media site.

At the time of writing, Clegg has also seen his fanbase on Facebook rise by more than 10,000 to 23,458 - marginally behind David Cameron on 25,478.

Surpassing the volume of searches when Clegg was elected leader of the party in December 2007 for the first time, visits to the party's website are also up 170% on last month and more than double any point in the past two years.

Underlining the fact that Clegg must differentiate himself from Cameron in the eyes of voters, almost 50% more voters subsequently searched for Cameron than Gordon Brown and 5.6% of visitors to the Lib Dem website came from Conservatives.com, as opposed to 3.6% from Labour.org.uk.

The ITV debate also saw Clegg overtake his two rivals in search volumes for the first time since Brown called the election on April 6th and move further ahead the following day. Although this may be largely down to the fact that many viewers had never heard of him, the increased traffic to the party website suggests voters may now be more open to switching allegiances after the debate than prior to it.

'Nick Clegg wiki' was also a prominent search, highlighting the fact that many voters are looking to find out more about his background - attacking his record as a career politician may be next line of assault for the Tories and Labour.

Meanwhile, searches for Clegg's wife was the biggest rising search term - perhaps the most depressing reality of the 2010 election.

14 April 2010

Fleet's Street influence on the 2005 Election

Continuing on from the previous post analysing the media's influence on the election across the last 65 years, I've created a visualisation of newspaper support for the three main political parties at the 2005 election (the size of the bubble corresponds to circulation).

As previously noted, despite Lord Mandelson's protestations to the contrary, The Sun's defection to the Tories looks set to have a significant effect on the outcome (even if it is just conformation the tide of public opinion has turned against New Labour - rather than its own influence on voters) and we could conceivably see press support shape up like this in 2010:

Liberal Democrat Manifesto: Word Cloud Analysis

The Liberal Democrats have now launched their election manifesto. In the absence of a Wordle cloud analysis on today's Guardian Data Blog here is the result.

Besides the obvious theme of a fairer society, there is interestingly a noticeable absence of opposition mentions.

The Guardian's original comparison of Labour and the Tories can be found here.

Believe the e-hype: this is a Net election

Although quite correct in highlighting the fact that its role as a game changer has been over-hyped, Roy Greenslade’s withering assessment of the role of social media in this year’s election is wrong in its assertion that it has no influence.

Like many commentators he provides a straight comparison between mainstream and social media, mistaking direct reach as the sole barometer of influence (a quick tally of Sarah Brown’s followers on Twitter and the circulation of the Evening Standard provides an obvious illustration of how even this measure doesn’t always work in the favour of many newspapers).

Social media is not a direct challenge to mainstream media and perhaps part of the problem lies in the name. Social media is primarily a means of communication – it makes as much, if not more, sense to compare a tweet to a letter as a newspaper.

The reason it is influential in this election is the fact it has reduced the role of two gatekeepers – mainstream media and polling companies. Not only can politicians easily communicate more directly with the electorate but, perhaps more importantly, the electorate can easily communicate more directly with them.

Greenslade claims the mainstream media sets the agenda but then goes on to state that “David Cameron believes in internet power because he has shown enormous enthusiasm for the web [and] put considerable effort into [his] YouTube offerings”. However many people view the video, is this not a sign that the Internet has influenced the agenda for no less than the next possible Prime Minister?

The media’s role as a gatekeeper has changed too. Whereas once an editor picked a handful of letters to illustrate public reaction, now people can comment directly on a story on a newspaper’s site. This may highlight the fact that, in most cases, mainstream media is still setting the agenda but the comments below the article also represent social media in action.

All those comments, tweets and blogs also provide a wealth of data to analyse too.

No longer is YouGov or ComRes in sole control of determining the views of the public based on a questionnaire of 1,000 people. As the recent ‘Ask the Chancellors’ on Channel 4 illustrated, tools like Twitter offer the public an instant way in which to offer their opinion and anyone can harness all the data that subsequently becomes available.

Social media won’t change the result of this election but it has already changed the way in which we communicate with politicians. Perhaps more significantly though, it has fundamentally changed the way in which we gauge public opinion.

13 April 2010

The Most Dangerous Football Grounds in the Country

Piling on the misery for the clubs most likely to be relegated from the Football League, Darlington and Grimsby Town are revealed to be the two most dangerous clubs to visit in the country.

Using statistics on football-related arrests and banning orders from the Home Office and factoring in average attendance figures, Darlington has the most troublesome fans in England. Despite an average crowd of less than 2,000, Darlington has 28 banning orders against risk supporters.

Not surprisingly Millwall, Cardiff City and Leeds United all feature in the bottom 15, with FA Cup finalists Portsmouth the worst Premier League offenders in 13th place. As of 30th October 2008 Leeds had the most fans with banning orders (152), ahead of Cardiff (136) and Millwall (117).

1 Darlington
2 Grimsby Town
3 Millwall
4 Chesterfield
5 Tranmere Rovers
6 Lincoln City
7 Cardiff City
8 Leeds United
9 Scunthorpe United
10 Hartlepool United
11 Shrewsbury Town
12 Port Vale
13 Portsmouth
14 Plymouth Argyle
15 Coventry City

The safest grounds in the country sees Accrington Stanley and Milton Keynes Dons top the list, with Fulham's Craven Cottage the safest Premier League ground for travelling fans in fifth. Arsenal are the only other Premiership club to feature in the top 15 in 12th place.

=1 Accrington Stanley
=1 Milton Keynes Dons
3 Gillingham
4 Wycombe Wanderers
5 Fulham
6 Yeovil Town
7 Norwich City
8 Dagenham & Redbridge
9 Brentford
10 Macclesfield Town
11 Reading
12 Arsenal
13 Cheltenham Town
14 Northampton Town
15 Ipswich Town

12 April 2010

What do Guardian readers think of US foreign policy?

An analysis of more than 300 Guardian readers' comments on US foreign policy, reveals that the issue of the Iraq war is almost twice as prominent as Afghanistan, despite the escalating violence in the latter.

JackCoyle76 said that he believes Iraq is "on the brink of civil war and violence escalating exponentially", whilst jigen stated that "Iraq is a mess because it was important to the cloudy-eyed business leaders of today; they seek profits not stability".

'WMD', 'Oil' and 'interests' were all to the fore, with Bush appearing three times as frequently Obama. Hoof1 typified the anger of many in posting: "Bush's administration, led by Cheyney, saw an opportunity to exploit security concerns to bolster 'US strategic interests' (oil) in the middle east by creating a client state in Iraq. The fact that Haliburton could make millions from controlling the basic infrastructure of Iraq post the invasion was a nice bonus for Cheyney."

11 April 2010

Political Party Blogs - Word Cloud Analysis

Running feeds of the three major political blogs through through Wordle (a word-cloud generating tool), omitting nongermane words, provides an interesting perspective into their current media strategies.

Here is Conservative Home:

Labour List:

Finally, Lib Dem Voice:

This does appear to suggest Labour is more focused on the opposition, instead of its own policies, with 'Tories' very prominent. Interestingly, Osborne appears to be more of a focal point of posts than Cameron - suggesting the party does perceive him to the be the weakest link to target.

Conservative Home, whilst more focused on Cameron and its own party, on the surface does appear to be lighter on policy specifics than the other two blogs.

Whilst Lib Dem Voice appear to be the most policy driven blog, the Labour government does feature prominently. This contrasts to most of Cable's recent press appearances, in which the Conservatives have been the focal point of attack, including the most recent poster (which Cable was heavily taken to task over by Jon Sopel on The Politics Show this morning).

In addition, the fact that no words are as prominent as the other two blogs, perhaps highlights the fact the party isn't drumming home its core messages as effectively as its opponents - underlining the fact the vast majority of the public still doesn't know what Clegg really stands for.

So to conclude (admittedly slightly disingenuously), Labour = too negative, Conservatives = policy light and Lib Dems = confused public.

10 April 2010

Will it be The Sun wot won it again?

Does Fleet Street influence the election? A look at the charts below illustrates the fact that newspaper support does correlate closely with the subsequent result.

The significance of The Sun is illustrated in the table below which reveals that the paper's readers are the only one's to back the winner in the last four elections (something both Blair and Campbell were fully aware of).

I expect we'll see Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph reader support for the Tories return to 1992 levels this time again - whilst I wouldn't be surprised to see the majority of Daily Star readers defecting in their droves to the Tories for the first time.

Whether the press is leading or merely following the tide of public opinion is a matter of debate, but the decision by The Sun to switch their support to the Conservatives would mean a Labour victory would have to dramatically buck a 65-year trend.

Data courtesy of the Guardian Data Store

09 April 2010

Is Cable an asset or liability?

A look at the share of search term volumes across the last 12 months between the three party leaders and their (shadow) chancellors highlights how closely Nick Clegg must share the public limelight with Vince Cable...

Focusing on the trend in search volume patterns across the same period reveals that Clegg has enjoyed a recent surge in interest amongst the British public (even overtaking Gordon Brown) - suggesting he has benefitted from Cable's recent performance on Channel 4's The Chancellor's Debate.

Of course voters are already very familiar with both Brown and David Cameron so naturally search volumes may fall for both over time. Indeed, searches for the latter may actually represent an increased interest in his privileged background - suggesting the 'Class War' may still be a pertinent election issue.

In addition, the fact that 'David Cameron poster' is the fastest rising search confirms that increased traffic isn't always a positive thing - with users directed to the infamous spoof site mydavidcameron.com.

However, the increased interest in the Liberal Democrat leader does suggest voters are still open to what the party has to offer ahead of the televised debates.

Why isn't Kyrgyzstan trending on Twitter?

Despite a similar median age of its citizens (24.4 to 27), the unrest in Kyrgyzstan isn't even close to generating similar levels of interest on Twitter as Iran.

Some of this can be explained by the fact it has a population a tenth of the size of Iran and just 850,000 Internet users (compared to 23 million in Iran).

However, the main reason (besides the difficulty in spelling it correctly - which should never be ignored when analysing social media) is that the public in the USA isn't as interested and, in spite of all the suggestions to the contrary, the majority of those tweeting about Iran were not citizens of the country, but American users.

Despite all the media hyperbole at the time, subsequent research for the British Council revealed that just 0.03% of the Iranian population were members of Twitter at the time. A quick glance at tweets at the time quickly illustrated the fact they weren't emanating from Iran ("My Twitter photo has gone GREEN in support of the freedom revolution of #IranElection").

At least the events unfolding in Kyrgyzstan don't look set to be trivialised by lazy journalists seeking an 'interesting' angle for readers in the West.

Grand National Twitter Analysis

Focusing on the horses with the lowest odds, Comply or Die is the most talked about horse on Twitter across the last 48 hours...

However, Big Fella Thanks has seen an astonishing 26-fold increase in buzz since yesterday (with Tricky Trickster the next closest up a paltry 400% in comparison) suggesting his odds could fall further still - get your bets in sooner rather than later.

Mon Mome is showing the smallest increase, so hold off bets until tomorrow.

08 April 2010

Social Media Analysis of Ferret Ownership

Britain's first national ferret survey recently revealed that the new stronghold for ownership of the pet is in the south-east of England, particularly among women and with a particularly significant ownership by female flight attendants.

The media suggests that Ferret-owning by Madonna, Paris Hilton and Jonathan Ross has set a trend - does social media confirm an increase in interest as well as ownership?

Looking at search term traffic across the last three months in the UK alone there is definitely a noticeable upswing (the data stops prior to the Daily Telegraph April Fool's day story about the creature) on average of roughly 50% - which even accounting for a standard deviation of 10% is significant...

Buzz around ferrets has also risen by similar levels on a rolling daily basis across all social media types during the last three months...

and also on Twitter...

Social media does indeed suggest that ownership may be set to rise further.