Live

Watch CBSN Live

Tweet Me to Your Leader

Microbloggers are fickle animals. For politicians, one day you're the subject of praise, the next you're on a hit list. But at least you know what microbloggers think --- they don't back down, which is particularly interesting come election time.
The folks at PeopleBrowsr have been counting tweets about the Coalition and Labor parties and their leaders. Between 19th June (just before the Labor leadership spill) and 9th August (yesterday) they tracked just over 82,000 tweets, of which 65 percent where about Gillard, Rudd or the Labor party. Of those, three-quarters expressed a positive sentiment.

Tony Abbott, by comparison, has to do more to win over the Twittersphere, although with 64 percent of all tweets about him or his party appearing favourable, he doesn't have an awful lot of ground to make up. As opinion polls are showing us, there's still a race to be had.

Twitter, of course, tells us what's happening right now. People give us their immediate thoughts, not the delayed, reasoned response they give to pollsters. This is raw human emotion.

When we track tweets day to day we really see how this emotion has swung from side to side in what's been a somewhat tedious election campaign --- at least it has been since the initial excitement of a political execution.

Tweet Sentiment - compiled using data from PeopleBrowsr
To compile this graph I took the difference between positive and negative tweets for each leader (the bold line) then graphed the difference between the two. I repeated the exercise for the difference between the two parties, shown by the faint line.

So on June 24th and 25th, with Rudd gone and Australia's first female Prime Minister in place, microbloggers went mad. There were over 4,000 tweets about Gillard, three-quarters of them positive about the change. With less than 600 tweets Tony Abbott hardly got a look-in. Hence, the graph swings sharply to the left.

Since then, the supposed resolution of the mining tax, the asylum seeker debate, the argument over population and the subsequent trickle of policy announcements has seen sentiment swing sharply from left to right, repeatedly throughout the campaign.

The events I have added to the sentiment graph above reflect news stories of the time, not necessarily specific mentions from the Twitterati. But it is interesting to note that, even though the positive impact from the overthrow of Kevin Rudd was enormous, his resurfacing has helped pull opinon back out of Abbott territory --- unless that's more to do with the re-appearance of John Howard.

Finally, notice how the veracity of the swing is increasing the closer we get to the election. No wonder the leaders are careful what they say. There's a nation of voters out there waiting to key-in their 140 characters worth. These days everyone is a political columnist.

If fickle-Twitterers are anything to go by, this election will be won based on what happens the day before.

See where the pendulum is right now at election.ly.

See also:
A Rich Analysis of Twitter | BTalk