Social Media Reveals What Members of Parliament Think

Crimson Hexagon Forsight Platform Plots UK Politicians 2013 Tweets on Energy Prices, Syrian Crisis, and the NHS

Editor’s Note: Luke Moore, Paul Wainwright, and Tom Whitney collaborated on this project.
As we near the end of 2013 and temperatures drop, the energy price debate that has been heating up all year seems to have finally thawed out the cold hearts of the ‘Big Six’. The recent UK government shake-up of energy levies has seen power firms pledge to pass on savings to consumers. This marks a concerted effort to bring a positive conclusion to the energy issue in the UK, which has dominated the political agenda throughout the year, along with other issues such as the Syrian crisis and constant discussion of the NHS.
Social media analysis of UK parliament
Off the back of this news we were curious to see how Crimson Hexagon ForSight™ might help us track conversations and topics that dominated UK Politicians’ Twitter feeds in 2013. The Energy issue would certainly be one! This gave us an idea for a great new use case for ForSight. The questions we set out to answer are “How can you organise a focus group of people that you could never dream of getting in one room?” and “Could we uncover their unsolicited opinions on topics that matter to an organisation?” So we tracked the 650 UK Members of Parliament (or at least, the ones who HAVE a Twitter account), using Crimson Hexagon’s Forsight platform to analyse their Tweets over the whole of 2013.

What do MPs talk about on Twitter?

From the MPs’ 650,000 plus tweets, certain trends emerged.  Looking at the language they used, across the 12 months, we see topics such as the more the aforementioned Energy debate, the response to the crisis in Syria, and ongoing discussions of the NHS:
Members of Parliament topic wheel analysis
We can follow volume fluctuations across the weeks, or ‘terms’ of parliament sitting or on recess, and look at the most influential. The Prime Minister wins out here, unsurprisingly, with the highest Klout influence score, followed by the other party leaders and high profile Cabinet members.
Members of Parliament influencial Twitter authors

Returning to the Energy Issue…

The idea that individuals or organisations could use the MPs’ tweets as a source of their unsolicited opinions on specific topics of interest was fascinating to us. Our initial focus was on the ‘Big 6’ energy companies and gas and electricity prices.  This story has received significant attention from the media and the public alike, but the Energy firms can also look at trends among what MPs have had to say on the matter, and which of them are most engaged with the issue.
Members of Parliament tweets on energy
Here, we see the patterns of when parliament was talking about the issue: largely since late September when price increases started to be announced, and 3rd of June, when the MPs debated the Energy Bill.  Probing the spikes we can see the verbatims behind the themes, in this case debate over the Labour campaign to freeze energy prices:
Topic Wave MP Tweets on Energy
We can also look into the MPs who are most actively engaged with this topic, at least on Twitter, by listing the most prolific ‘authors’ on the topic of Energy.

The NHS: A Constant Topic of debate!

As another example of how this online commentary can be used, stakeholders at the NHS could look at exactly what has been said by MPs relating to their organisation, or healthcare matters in general, over 2013.
Topic Wave MP tweets on NHS
Dipping into just one of the many topics within the debate below we see how we can surface the verbatim in this case relating to an apology to MP Andy Burnham on a Tory ‘smear’ campaign.

Syria: Was it on our Politicians lips?

Finally, a news organisation or journalist looking for insights on MPs’ comments about the Syria crisis, which was one of the highest profile global news stories of 2013. There was an obvious peak of mentions among the MPs, coinciding with the vote on military action on August 31st.
Topic Wave MP tweets on Syria
Digging deeper, this spike can be analyzed to reveal various MPs’ voting behaviour regarding Syria crisis, or the MPs who have been most prolifically tweeting their views on Syria in the past 12 months.
UK Parliment tweets on Syria MP influencers

Conclusions

Public figures such as MPs, journalists, sports personalities and celebrities will, of course, never be corralled into a traditional focus group. However, they are regularly volunteering information online, unsolicited and until recently unmonitored.  As shown here, there are many and varied ways in which different people (such as brands, industry bodies, lobby groups, public sector bodies, news organisations and journalists, and even rival political parties) can access and understand this information to glean ‘Focus Group’ style insights. By capturing these unique pools of data and leveraging ForSight patented methods to drill into this, we can have access to their opinions, interests, voting patterns, and even schedules of parliamentary business.
We intend to repeat this example with many other groups in future, such as US Senators, influential newspaper editorial accounts, and others, and will continue to monitor the Energy Prices issue as it develops into the coming new year. In the meantime we would love to hear more about your ideas on this. Please let us know!
For more insight into how social media analysis measures political sentiment, download our case study on analysing how satire propagates political messaging.


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