With the Australian federal election looming in September, social media is buzzing with opinions, especially around a leadership spill that occurred on June 26th when Kevin Rudd regained the leadership position from Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
In Australia, a leadership spill usually occurs when there is unrest amongst party leaders and is a way to confirm the current Prime Minister still has majority support. Thus, when a Prime Minister calls a leadership spill, the two contenders face a vote from their party colleagues and whoever gets the majority of the votes wins. In this spill, Kevin Rudd won 57 votes to 45 votes as leader of Australia’s Labor Party. Interestingly enough, three years ago, Julia Gillard overthrew the leadership of then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd when he resigned in 2010.
So what did Australians think about this surprising event? We used Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight™ platform to analyze the social media landscape and better understand the public’s reaction about this history-making event.
Analyzing 52,263 relevant posts the week leading up to the spill, Julia Gilliard unsurprisingly dominated the conversation with 66% focused on support or criticism of her leadership. Support was mixed as only 30% backed Gillard’s leadership, while 36% expressed criticism. Most of the criticism of Gillard was poking fun at her front page cover photo in The Australian where she was photographed knitting a ball of yarn.
Gillard should knit herself a straight jacket! #auspol
— Simon (@SimonSaysBlah) June 25, 2013
— angel of wrath (@angelofwrath63) June 25, 2013
While support for Kevin Rudd was negligible leading up to the spill, interestingly, negative criticism of Rudd was fairly high at 16%. Much of this conversation came about as rumors began to swirl that Rudd would seek to overthrow Gillard.
Through this visualization we can see how the conversation changed as the leadership spill took place. The spill happened on the 26th, and perhaps most surprising is that even on the day that Kevin Rudd regained the Prime Minister position, conversation on social media was still focused on Gillard, as she drove 52% of the conversation that day. Even as she left her office, 36% of the conversation surrounded support for her leadership against only 16% criticisms.
— Australia Votes LOL (@ausvotesLOL) June 26, 2013
However, as you would expect, after the spill, overall mentions for Kevin Rudd increased as people shifted their focus from Gillard to Rudd. Unfortunately for Rudd, most of the conversation was negative in nature and we see that as Gillard support drops in the proportion of conversation, Rudd criticism increases as well. One reason for this may be that Gillard supporters shifted their focus from praising their former Prime Minister to bashing Rudd which would account for the marked increase in Rudd criticism.
Taking a look at our word cloud visualization, we can analyze the conversation surrounding posts specifically about the Rudd criticisms category. Words such as contempt, psychopathic, phony, selfish, scum and phrases like “duddrudd” and “laborfail” all point to Rudd’s poor reputation amongst some Australians. Rudd has the unique position of being the first Prime Minister to return to office since 1949, and thus we see how his past failings in the position have affected Australian perceptions of his leadership in the infancy of his new term as PM.
Since the weeks following the spill, conversations have shifted to focus on Rudd, as expected. Yet, conversations surrounding his leadership have changed little, as 55% of the conversation is still criticizing Rudd, while only 24% offer their support. With a new election coming up in September, it will be more important than ever to track citizens’ conversations about the election.