As Paul wrote yesterday, ConservativeHome has partnered with Blurrt, the social media insight platform, to analyse Twitter reaction to the Budget. David Cameron was of course right when he said “Twitter and Britain – they’re not the same thing”, but the response of the assembled Twitterati nevertheless remains important – particularly in shaping the way the media covers an event.
Targeting tweets relating to the Budget, Blurrt gathered and analysed 43,639 tweets and retweets from 18,159 individual accounts between 12.30pm and 2.45pm, which allows us to gain some insight into the reaction during the Chancellor’s speech, Corbyn’s response and immediately afterwards.
As you might expect with a news event, where tweeting is dominated at first by reporting, about 60 per cent of the commentary was identified as neutral. But already divides of opinion were opening up among the remaining 40 per cent:
Given that it’s International Women’s Day, it’s worth noting that the gender divide in political commentary continues – identifiably male Budget tweeters outnumbered their female counterparts by two to one.
The topics under discussion can be seen in the top words and terms that came up most regularly. Even early on in the afternoon you can already see the first signs of the main story developing: “insurance”, “self-employed” and “employed” all feature around the margins. It’ll be interesting to see if these issues grow and “Brexit” – a word the Chancellor didn’t say – fades when we come to analyse how the debate developed later on.
Blurrt has the capacity to assess more than the overall sentiment of a tweet, but can differentiate the range of emotions being expressed to a degree. The breakdown of emotions relating to the day’s announcements illustrates how hard it is to make anybody happy with a Budget:
While Philip Hammond might be reassured to know that 20.9 per cent expressed happiness at his Budget, 4.5 per cent were thankful and 2.6 per cent were even inspired to feel love, the awkward fact remains that a much larger 43.7 per cent were tweeting angrily, 8.7 per cent were sad, 4.9 per cent were fearful and 11.1 per cent were disgusted.
We know, of course, that Twitter lends itself to ranting rather more than affection, but this demonstrates the trend for budgets to be more powerful in upsetting those who lose out than in pleasing those who gain. Andrew Gimson notes in his sketch that the Chancellor’s jokes confounded his rather dry reputation – indeed, the Blurrt data shows terms like “funny”, “laughing” and “humour” played a large part in boosting the happiness rating.
In terms of the most influential tweeters during this initial phase of budget discussion, unsurprisingly the top ten were all media organisations – the BBC, The Guardian, the FT and so on. But in 11th place was the top politician – it wasn’t the Prime Minister, it wasn’t the Chancellor and it wasn’t Jeremy Corbyn. It was Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.
We also tracked the follow-on reaction in the hours after the main Budget speeches to see how the debate developed. We’ll be posting the results of that analysis first thing tomorrow morning.