Yesterday we published the Blurrt analysis of live Twitter reaction to the Budget as it was presented by the Chancellor. As is always the way with budgets, the initial impression often gives way to an entirely different view as the small print is examined and the impact of various nasties is explored.
To that end, we now publish the follow-on data, showing how the discussion of the Budget shifted in the hours following the Budget’s launch.
Between 14.45 and 16.45 yesterday afternoon, Blurrt gathered 13,720 tweets and retweets relating to the Budget from 8,378 Twitter users.
Even only a short time after the Chancellor’s speech, one can already see a shift to the negative. While the response during Hammond’s speech and Corbyn’s response was 18 per cent positive and 22 per cent negative, in the ensuing hours that gap almost doubled, with 17 per cent positive reaction and 25 per cent negative:
As predicted, the focus of the discussion also sharpened. Brexit, which loomed large initially in the top words despite not being mentioned by Hammond, later fell back, to be replaced by a screed of discussion focused on the changes to National Insurance Contributions for the self-employed:
While yesterday’s initial wordcloud featured just three references to this tax rise, by mid-afternoon it was visibly dominating the discussion. Notably, two direct quotes from the Labour leadership make the list: “the Conservative’s budget” was part of a mis-punctuated but popular Corbyn tweet, while “Labour will oppose” were the opening words of McDonnell’s statement on NICs. The only glimmers of positivity were warm words for “Hammond’s best five”…”budget jokes”, which he probably didn’t intend to be the highlight of his debut outing as custodian of the red box.
The analysis of the emotions displayed by tweeters tells a similar story for the Chancellor:
As I wrote yesterday, Twitter rarely lends itself to positivity in the first place, but the trend shows that the Budget’s reputation was on the slide. From early afternoon to mid-afternoon, the positive emotions expressed all fell: happiness -5.8 per cent, love -1.3 per cent, thankfulness -0.1 per cent. Meanwhile, most negative emotions climbed even from their high starting base: anger +6.2 per cent, sadness +2.5 per cent, fear +0.4 per cent. Disgust fell by 2.2 per cent, but aside from that it’s cold comfort – particularly when you consider that analysis of top keywords reveals the “happiness” ranking to be primarily based on appreciation of Hammond’s jokes.
There’s one final thing to note on the back of this analysis. While we readily acknowledge that Twitter is not a representative poll of public opinion, and don’t present it as such, we began this exercise on the basis that “the response of the assembled Twitterati nevertheless remains important – particularly in shaping the way the media covers an event”. So it has proved in practice – while Hammond’s speech received mostly positive coverage in advance, the shift in the online response detected in these tweets yesterday is mirrored exactly in today’s newspaper front pages.