Social media was used to great effect in the Obama presidential campaigns, especially as a source of crowdfunding (over $1billion in the 2012 campaign) and to engage with marginal voters (Ref)

The General Election in Ireland has awoken to some of the potential. Sinn Fein would be most active in this regard, but all political parties and candidates know its potential. It was therefore interesting to analyse the Twitter data from the various Ard Fheis held in the first month of 2016. Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail all held their Ard Fheis (Sinn Fein will hold their’s after the election) and what it does provide is a pulse of what really matters to people as to offer up their feelings as to what matters to them. It does have its limitations. As demonstrated in the Obama campaign data alone is not effective, you have to tie in disparate sources to gain value from it, but the data is interesting nonetheless.

R was used to scrape the data from Twitter and some further text analysis was applied to try and dissect what other trends people were highlighting in their tweets. The following shows a wordcloud of the main items of interest along with an estimate of the emotion of the tweet. The sentiment/emotional analysis was captured using the Sentiment package in R, but a cursory look of the text versus the emotion/sentiment highlighted the need for further work on my behalf to refine this further. The link here was very useful but any tips on how to improve the sentiment analysis of the tweets would be greatly appreciated.

Fine Gael Wordcloud

    FG_AF16

    Labour Wordcloud

      LP Word Cloud

      The following visualisation shows how the tweets developed during the Ard Fheis, typically peaking at the leader speeches. Over 33,000 tweets were captured over the three meetings. The party whose Ard Fheis it was typically led the way in terms of the volume of retweets (a barometer for engagement), but it is interesting to see that this was followed by the opposition (that is Fine Gael had the second most retweets of the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis and the biggest single retweet at 94). What was also striking was the lack of engagement of the current Government parties on Twitter (Fine Gael and Labour did not endorse each others tweets).

      A final note of interest is that the Simon Community were very active tweeting about both the Fine Gael and Fianna Fail Ard Fheis, but had very little interaction on the Labour meeting which shows how they are trying to interact with the various parties on a serious issue.

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