Digital Election 2015 – Are UKIP becoming the 3rd Party?
With less than 24 hours to go until the country heads out to the polling booths, the media is full of speculation about how people are making their voting choices in 2015. One popular theory has it that most voters are basing their decisions on personality more than policy or party – a theory which is lent some credence by the facts we can find online.
Over on Facebook, for instance, the volume of people following the party leaders and the actual parties doesn’t allow for any clear conclusions. For instance:
David Cameron – 547,000 Likes / The Conservative Party – 469,000 Likes
Ed Milliband – 109,588 Likes / The Labour Party – 299,168 Likes
Nick Clegg – 87,323 Likes / The Liberal Democrat Party – 112,000 Likes
Nigel Farage – 243,983 Likes / UKIP – 456,000 Likes
Natalie Bennett – 24,945 Likes / The Green Party – 207,000 Likes
Whilst the argument for personality vs party or policy is unclear here, you can draw a couple of conclusions. For starters, the current popularity polls don’t seem to be reflective of social media following – if the election were to be decided on Likes alone, UKIP would be prepping for a very big celebration on Friday. Secondly, David Cameron appears to be winning the race for “hearts and minds”.
If we take a look at Google Trends, the last 90 days paints a very interesting picture.
David Cameron has consistently attracted more interest than his party, usually by a margin of almost double.
Conversely, Ed Miliband and the Labour Party are much more closely linked, with the last 90 days showing their search interest almost neck and neck, with a couple of exceptions.
Poor Nick Clegg isn’t coming out of the Trends well, with his interest levels significantly lower than that of his party – presumably due to his apparent unpopularity at the moment.
UKIP have a similar result to the Lib Dems, with the party as a whole generating significantly more interest than the leader.
As well as having a VERY skewed graph (peaking on the day of one of the political debates), the poor Green party suffer very low search interest/volumes – and their leader, Natalie Bennett, wasn’t even suggested in the top results when we entered her name into the trends search box.
Arguably the most talked-about party amongst the politicians themselves has been the Scottish National Party. Interestingly, of all the “Party vs Personality” trend graphs, Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are most closely-matched.
Interest in the party manifestos has also been varied, with peaks for all parties on April 13/14/15 – and no obvious winner in terms of interest (handily colour-coded in the graph below – surely not a coincidence, Google?)
A search for ‘policies’ on the other hand reveals a very different picture – perhaps indicating that despite the political commentary using it commonly, most people don’t use the term ‘manifesto’ that frequently. Searches for the 5 main party policies shows UKIP attracting the highest share of the total, with the Lib Dems almost flat-lining – and the Green Party, Labour and the Conservatives pretty much neck-and-neck.
Going back to our original theory, though, comparing the leader to the party, the manifesto and the policies shows a clear trend towards the leader attracting most interest. Below is the Conservative party example, but Labour and the Liberal Democrats had the same trend. The one exception to this rule is UKIP, though the party itself still remained far more popular than both policies and manifesto.
So what can we conclude from this data? Clearly this isn’t a fool proof study (the number of phrases people are using for individual policies, for instance, may muddy the waters) but as a top-line indicator it certainly leads to a few conclusions.
Well first of all, the theory that people are voting on personalities more than policy or party would definitely seem to be true, with all the main “personalities” receiving far more interest than their party policies.
Secondly, despite their leader being one of the most vocal and outspoken during this election, UKIP still seems to be of more interest than Nigel Farage – something which might surprise a few people.
Finally, it seems clear that online interest isn’t at all reflective of the current poll results – though that may all be turned on its head when we find out the results of the vote in the next few days. If that does turn out to be the case, it might be a good time to start factoring online sentiment and behaviour into performance polls and predictions.
Whatever happens, we’re looking forward to seeing the result – so don’t forget to get out a vote tomorrow.