Analysis on social media in our research documents

Analysis on social media from our research documents

Research documents:
• EU Referendum Analysis 2016: Media, Voters and the Campaign – CSJCC
• News Consumption in the UK: 2018 – Ofcom
o Along with this: Scrolling news: The changing face of online news consumption – Ofcom

The EU Referendum and Twitter:

• Can be seen as the first ‘digital referendum’ as both the Remain and Leave campaigns used targeted and digital method
• The Leave campaign had a stronger and more visible presence on Twitter throughout the campaign – Started faster – led to their domination of Twitter throughout the campaign (reflecting the intensity of motivation for leave supporters)
• Remain supporters only started to become more active on Twitter in the later stages of the campaign – when they realised that there was potential for a leave result
• On Twitter the leave camp outnumbers the Remain camp 7 to 1
• Leave supporters’ tweets were more emotionally charged – there’s evidence that high arousal emotions (e.g. anger/irritation) diffuse quicker than more rational/economic arguments
• After the result:
o The public was still divided online
o Leave: celebrated with the hashtag #IndependenceDay
o Remain: reacted with memes/pictures to express their frustration and sorrow – #NotMyVote used
o Internet used to mobilise protest against the referendum result – e.g. posting the petition for a second referendum
• Twitter can polarise and amplify the extremes of debates
• Twitter users are not representative of the wider public – selection bias
o Tend to be highly motivated, younger on average, and males tend to be more likely to engage in political debates
• There was lots of backlash on how tradition polls predicted the result wrong (e.g. YouGov) – however, predictions that used information gathering techniques that utilised information from social media estimated more accurately (they at least predicted that Brexit would be the result)
o Social media now a more accurate way to make predictions? – is this because people are communicating their views here more?
• #usepens meme – mainly used to satirise Brexit voters – undermining their real concerns & refusing to actually listen to them
o (link to BBC article which shows some of these tweets)

Social media (SM) as a source for news in general:

• Paul Staines – Because you can respond quickly on SM it is easy to counter-spin any obviously false information
• Nick Cohen – SM produces lots of misinformation, so isn’t widely trusted – contrast with broadcast media – “in this referendum, the most important thing will be television coverage”
• 44% of adults claim to consume news through SM (76% Facebook, 32% Twitter)
• Use of SM to gain news is more common in 16-24 year olds
• The majority of SM users say they know the sources of the news they read ‘some’ or ‘most’ of the time
o Don’t know all of the sources, so users won’t trust all the information they see/or they could be believing false information
• Twitter access news from these sources: 58% news organisations, 24% other people they follow, 18% friends and family
• Information on SM is usually tailored to the user’s preferences (e.g. through the people they follow) – many users don’t realise this
o Risks of echo chambers and not seeing all sides of the argument
• Approaching news on SM with a SM mindset – leads to shallower, faster & less critical consumption of news
o Also, the emphasis that SM puts on sharing and connectivity could turn news on these as a form of validation/social pressure
• Speed of SM leads to news being less memorable