EU Referendum: A Digital PR in Scotland Analysis

by Kenny Murray

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

#EURef struggling to hold the interest of the nation’s Twitter users

European Referendum Debate Header Image - Two flags with a zipIT’S not long now until the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.

Are you excited? Have you attended one of the many rallies across the country? Have you joined a march? What about debates and hustings events?

What? You’ve done none of that?

It’s almost as though nobody really cares about the EU referendum. In fact, in comparison to the Scottish independence referendum, excitement is practically non-existent.

I take an interest in politics. I’ve worked in politics, I’ve been a campaigner and I enjoy debating it but even I haven’t been all that enthused by the current debate.

Is it just me? I decided to carry out some analysis on Twitter chat.

Twitter is full of people who love to debate topics in 140 characters or fewer. In fact, during the independence referendum, it was estimated there were over 5000 tweets a minute during #scotnight debates and other high points.

So what does Twitter data say about discussion on #EURef? Using the Twitter analytics tool FollowTheHashtag I analysed 12,000 tweets over an 86-hour time period.

There were on average 144 tweets an hour. Yes, an hour. How many a minute is that? 2.4. That’s 4998 fewer tweets a minute than the Scottish referendum, in fact a whopping 199% less. In any 86-hour period during the 2014 independence campaign, there were on average 300,000 tweets per hour at peak time.

Yes Scotland and Better Together worked hard to engage with new voters, and with women in particular. What about the gender balance of those tweeting about the #EURef?

So 8652 tweets from men and 3347 from women. More than a bit of a disparity.

Where is the #EURef being discussed? Using FollowTheHashtag, I analysed all EU-related Twitter activity across the globe and produced these maps. They show the intensity of discussion with red clouds and green clouds for small levels of discussion.

The world

As you see, social media users based in the UK and on the Continent are the most likely to be posting about the referendum, though note intense interest in the United States too. As America’s strongest ally in Europe, it’s not surprising the question of Britain’s future inside or outside the EU gets attention.

Online EU Discussion Heatmap


It’ll come as no great shock that social media references to the referendum are most common in the UK. But observe how that red splodge spills over the English Channel and takes in Brussels, the political heart of the EU. Given the tightness of the polls, we can probably expect even more activity in the next few weeks.

EU Twitter Map Europe



The UK

It appears the only places really debating the #EURef with any intensity are London, Manchester and Liverpool, with other areas of the country (Glasgow, for example) being interested but not on the same level.



In previous research on the Scottish referendum, I found that independence dominated online discussions — despite the relatively few active tweeters. The Europe debate seems not to have captured Britain’s attention as intensely.EU Twitter Map UK

And who is winning online? With the data breaking down use of hashtags and keywords, we can identify a slight lead for Remain.

That would seem to reflect the margin-of-error nature of the most recent polling of voting intentions.

Can we say with any certainty how this will translate into votes on June 23? No, not responsibly. But it captures a mood. And that is one that tells us it’s still too close to call.

Like our data visualisation? We can do it for you?

Our expert digital consultant, Kenny Murray has worked with data for a range of clients and can find a story where others just see numbers. Why not utilise that skill for your business?

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