By Gemma Joyce
As the race for London Mayor accelerates, new data is suggesting a change in tide of online support for the front runners.
Social data research on the candidates’ performance on social media could be good news for Richmond Park and North Kingston MP Zac Goldsmith.
The analysis, conducted by Brandwatch, studied conversations surrounding London Mayor front runners Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith on Twitter, finding that discussion related to the Conservative candidate was scoring a higher percentage of positive mentions (48 per cent) than his Labour rival (42 per cent).
Sadiq Khan’s popularity with younger voters and substantial Twitter following would lead most to expect him to excel on social compared to Goldsmith, but according to the data the Labour candidate is getting a lot more negative than positive comments on the social network, and Goldsmith is edging ahead.
The results mark an interesting shift given usual trends in tweeters’ political allegiances.
Twitter’s UK users rarely back a right wing candidate. Jeremy Corbyn consistently scores a higher percentage of mentions with a positive sentiment than David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions and when it comes to politics, the social network’s supposedly leftist user base is almost always more vocal than the right, but Goldsmith’s positive ratings could be indicative of a strong undercurrent of support for the candidate.
January’s hotly anticipated analysis of the mistakes made by opinion polls during last years General Election condemned pollsters for failing to reach Tory voters. An exit poll comprised of social data collected by Brandwatch was also skewed, as the vocal leftists took to Twitter to spout their opinions and the “silent Tories” reserved theirs for the ballot box.
Despite the perceived youthful leftist Twittersphere, the London Mayoral election is beginning to show new trends in how social media is playing a part in democracy. Twitter users don’t yet reflect the views of the entire voting public, and given stalling user growth they may never do so, but times could be changing nonetheless.
The data shows a right wing candidate garnering positive attention on what is usually regarded as a predominantly left wing platform.
During the Evening Standard Hustings, also tracked by Brandwatch, the difference between the candidates on social sentiment was even more gaping. Zac Goldsmith scored an impressive 75.9 per cent positive mention rate for sentiment-categorised tweets compared to Khan’s 53 per cent, landing the Labour candidate second to last for all of the candidates on stage.
Whether Goldsmith’s support marks a trend towards right wing commentators taking to Twitter or the candidate has genuinely impressed an unchanged user base can’t be known, but his performance on social media could be a good sign for the #BackZac2016 team.