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#indyref2014 - What Social Media Can Tell Us About The Referendum

4 Sep 2014

indyref2014 what social media can tell us referendum

In the lead up to the Referendum, many have been striving to understand how Scotland would be affected by either a yes or a no vote. With the power ultimately lying in the hands of the voters, any insight into public sentiment is highly valuable at this stage, particularly on key topics such as job creation and the economy. With this in mind, it seems clear that social media is a key tool in gaining this understanding.

We had the pleasure of talking to Dr Jillian Ney, CEO of Disruptive Insight, following her fascinating article series on the Independence Referendum. Disruptive Insight is a social intelligence agency that aims to leverage mass amounts of social data for use in business strategy. After the televised debates between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, the relative flurry of social media activity seemed to Jillian as the perfect opportunity to gauge sentiment and develop understanding as to where public opinion lies.


Job Market Analysis

A key aspect covered in the article was the Scottish job market. Her findings on this topic were particularly interesting regarding the contrast between the BBC viewing jobs as being a key talking point in social media, and their insights that this was actually a far smaller part of the conversation when looking at networks such as Twitter.

Disruptive Insight's key findings regarding jobs were:

  • There was a prevalent conversation over Salmond’s quizzing of Darling over three job creating powers that Westminster would grant Scotland on a no vote
  • This was followed by conversation on Darling’s argument over the amount of jobs that would be lost at Faslane
  • There were comments about the audience members argument that the yes campaign is fighting for Scotland and that the no campaign are fighting for their jobs
  • Graduates voiced concerns about getting jobs in Scotland and how independence will impact this

With over 80% of Twitter users being under 30, and this demographic making up roughly 15% of the Scottish electorate, the final point is particularly interesting in ascertaining the millennial vote, and topics that may sway them in either direction.


Unique Insights

Jillian provided some further information regarding the discourse surrounding jobs within the referendum debates that was particularly insightful. Jillian revealed that the conversation surrounding jobs has largely been driven by the Yes Campaign – since the debate on the 25th of August the Yes Campaign have been publishing many tweets with a focus on a yes vote having more powers to create jobs in Scotland. These tweets have proven to be popular, being retweeted frequently. The key negative conversation was that Scottish independence would put 1 million Scottish jobs at risk as they depend on trade from other parts of the UK. 

In terms of business discourse, Jillian went on to explain that David Cameron speaking to big business instead of the electorate directly is a big part of the conversation. Individual voters are annoyed at the focus on business instead of people and it has pushed many into the Yes camp.

Based on this, it is clear that jobs are a key deciding factor for many, and so going forward any developments in this area of policy will be interesting in terms of impact upon voting.


Regarding Disruptive Insight's extensive research and findings, Jillian had this to say:

The televised Independence Referendum debates provided an ideal opportunity for us [DI] to analyse the social media conversations about the IndyRef in large scale concentrated noise.  We hoped that the debate would spark the creation of original content, thoughts and opinions that moved beyond sharing of articles and stories to really get into what the public were thinking. While the noise was predominately made up of RT’s and link sharing, there was also a significant about of original content too.  

It was interesting to see the stark contrast of the perception of the leaders and their arguments from both the Yes and No camps. While many believe Salmond won the debate there were still a lot of negative comments from the No camp about his answers and performance. With the growing amount of social media analytics regarding the IndyRef debate, we feel we add something more to the analysis through exploring the contextual arguments.”


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