We are interested in what social media activity during #GE2015 can tell us about contemporary elections, voting behaviour and political preferences. Having undertaken some social data analysis during the night of the 2015 UK General Election, we are continuing to analyse the party social media campaigns – to see what (if any) difference they made. This question will be of primary importance in the aftermath of the election, given virtually all polls during the campaign proved disastrously wrong. This raises the possibility that costly and difficult opinion polling could be supplemented by other measures of what the public are currently thinking about their democracy.
This site collects elections research at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Much of it relates to the research project Big data and election prediction: analysing online information seeking during the European Parliament elections, which explores the extent to which data from the social web can be used to predict interesting social and political phenomena, especially elections. Meet the research team.
Why is the Internet interesting, when it comes to elections?
The Internet has become a forum where people both find out about politics and manifest their opinions. For example, the UK 2015 General Election has featured in millions of searches on Google, page views on Wikipedia and comments on Facebook and Twitter (to name but a few). This raises the possibility that costly and difficult opinion polling could be supplemented by other measures of what the public are currently thinking about their democracy.
What data do you collect, and what do you do with it?
We are currently collecting Twitter, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Facebook data on major parties, general hashtags (e.g., #ge2015), all MP candidates whose social media ids are known, and voter advice applications. We did some live data-hacking on the night of the election, and in a more general but closely related project on Big data and election prediction, we have been working on predictive models based on Wikipedia page view statistics and Google search volume to both understand and forecast voter behaviour before and on the election day.
Is it really possible to predict elections with social media?
The answer is basically no (at the moment). However, we are interested in exploring the extent to which data from the social web can be used to predict interesting social and political phenomena, especially elections. We think there’s lots of potential in this type of data, but it’s also quite biased and partial: hence most of the results so far have been pretty disappointing in terms of predictive accuracy. In this blog we want to work out what (if anything) data coming from the social web is indicative of. Along the way, we hope to find out something interesting about the way politics and society works.