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The Australian Federal Election – How Has Social Media Opinion Changed During The Campaign?

on September 3, 2013 | Government | Comments (0)

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This election campaign was peppered with many incidents, starting of course with the momentous spill where Kevin Rudd overthrew Julia Gillard for the position of Prime Minister just three months before the Federal Election was due to be held.  This may seem a little cheeky, however, Julia Gillard did the same thing to Kevin Rudd seven months after the Australian people voted the Labor Party (led by Kevin Rudd) into government 3 years ago.  So why would ALP change leaders just prior to an election?  Is Rudd an exceptional orator or debater?  Lets see if he has swayed social media opinions….

The latest spill in the Labor Party took place on June 26th 2013.

We used Crimson Hexagon’s ForSightTM platform to run the analysis due to ForSight’s ability to provide accurate results even with the sarcasm and innuendoes that are often characteristic of political conversations.  We analysed 320,239 relevant social media posts during the month of June leading up to the spill.

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Julia Gillard unsurprisingly dominated the conversation with 60% of the conversation focused on support or criticism of her leadership. Support was mixed with 33% backing Gillard’s leadership, while 27% expressed criticism.

Surprisingly support for Kevin Rudd was low at 10%, leading up to the spill and interestingly negative criticism of Rudd was fairly high at 21%. Looking at the posts it seems much of the criticism came about as rumors began to swirl that Rudd would seek to overthrow Gillard.

So the question is, did Rudd turn opinions around?  Was he able to garner more support than Gillard leading up to the election? We analysed 562,032 relevant posts from June 27th to now.

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The analysis above shows that support for Rudd has increased to 30%.  However, so have the criticisms directed towards him.  They have increased to 51%.  This represents 3% less positive comments and 24% more negative comments than Julia Gillard prior to the spill.

However, to be fair, this is only conversation centered on Rudd and Gillard.  Lets review the conversation around Rudd’s current opponent, the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott.  Is Rudd winning over the Australian people’s hearts and minds when compared to Tony Abbott?

We analysed over 1.5 million relevant social media posts from June 1st to September 1st with the results shown below.

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It seems, from a social media perspective, Rudd is not garnering any additional support.  Positive comments have remained relatively stagnant at a small 7%.  Therefore the analysis is showing, that Rudd is not winning the hearts and minds of social media users.

However, criticisms regarding the Rudd/ALP policies have reduced by 14% over time, with a 2% minor increase in Rudd criticisms regarding himself, personally.  The net situation for Rudd is an improvement by approximately 12% against Abbott.  Therefore, social media users dislike Rudd less over time…

Rudd and Abbott participated in three debates.  You can see the changes in the social media opinions around the times of these debates in the graph below:

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You can see the spikes in conversations on the major events:

June 26th – the spill

August 4th – announcement of Election Day

August 11th – the first debate

August 21st – the second debate

August 28th – the third debate

So lets get back to our original question, is Rudd a better orator or debator than Gillard?  Is that why the ALP chose to have him lead the party into an election? You can read my blogs on the debates here:

We utilised Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight platform because of its ability to accurately analyse sentiment to try to determine the winners of the three debates from a social media perspective.  The social media summary is that Rudd won all three debates.  So perhaps we can ascertain that Rudd has changed people’s perception of him.

We will never know how that may have compared with how Gillard would have campaigned.   However, we can see that Rudd compared favourably to Tony Abbott on each of the debates.

As is the Aussie way, during the campaign, Rudd was the subject of some selfies humor, some of which was self-initiated…

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some of which was initiated by others…

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Rudd jokes were second only to Tony Abbott’s jokes.  The hashtag #imvotingliberal was originally created by a group of young Liberal supporters to show their support for the Liberal Party.  However, in a social media phenomenon, it was “hashjacked” during the final debate and was the subject of many jokes on social media:

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As we approach Election Day the question is, who is the most favoured candidate? Rudd or Abbott?

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Social media views over the last five days indicate negligible support for both leaders, with Abbott garnering a small 3%.  Most conversations are negative in nature. However, the criticisms against Abbott are more significant, representing 83% vs 13% for Rudd.

Perhaps after all, it was a wise decision for the ALP to change leaders.  We will never know…


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