Pants on Fire | Brexit and its Lies
OVERVIEW: 1 JANUARY TO 9 JULY 2016
These days it seems politicians are practically expected to lie – and no more so than in the debates pre and post the Brexit vote.
Who do people think told the biggest whoppers? This research looked at social media activity in the UK from the 1st January to the 9th July 2016 to find out…
We used Crimson Hexagon, a leading social media analytics platform, to identify 694,154 pieces of social media data referring to politicians and their lies between 1 January and 9 July 2016.
The conversation peaks in April, when the Panama Papers were released, and shows enormous growth around the time of the Brexit referendum. It peaks on the day of the vote with 37,170 number of posts.
Note the timeline volume below, with the peak on the 24th largely related to the 350 million pound NHS porker perpetrated by the Leave campaign in general, and by Nigel Farage in particular…
THE POLITICAL PARTIES: 1 JANUARY TO 9 JULY 2016
If we look at the data, by political party, across the research period, we find the following.
The conservatives handed us a textbook case of what happens when your part is not only divided over an issue but opposing camps campaign fiercely for their respective positions. They garnered 19% of the total conversation over the period. UKIP of course is divisive by its nature, but unified by its goal – they received 8% of conversation.
And Labour seems fairly well trusted across the board with only 3% of conversation dedicated to its fabrications.
THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE NUMBERS: 1 JANUARY TO 9 JULY 2016
So who told the most lies, according to opinion expressed on social media in the UK?
We carefully trained a monitor on Crimson Hexagon to find out.
Over the total research period (1 January to 9 July 2016), here’s roll call of mistrust. Perhaps it’s just a Prime Ministers lot, but David Cameron was the least trusted politician with 21% of the conversation dedicated to him. The Conservatives (19%) as a whole were far less trusted than Labour (only 3%), with key Leave campaigners Nigel Farage (13%) and Boris Johnson (10%) right up there in the lack of trust stakes. :
THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE NUMBERS: 1-22 JUNE VS 23 JUNE-9 JULY 2016.
Of course the lying peaked right around the Brexit campaign! So who was most reviled on social media before and after the vote?
Interestingly, David Cameron dropped from 21% of the conversation to just 4% after the vote, perhaps due to his honourable resignation.
Boris Johnson took a while to step down from his ambitions, and shot up from 8% to 24% after the Brexit vote! This massive rise in bad sentiment was fueled by purported lies he told, and also by his decision to step down from his campaign to lead the Tories.
Nigel Farage remained pretty steady at 22% before and after – presumably social media didn’t have very high expectations of him.
Michael Gove tripled his score from 3% to 9% in the wake of the Brexit vote.
The Conservatives rise from 6 to 10 percent, as the fallout hits the party. And Labour also rises from less than 1% to 4% as they are also plunged into crisis.
IN DETAIL: THE POLITICAL PARTIES 1-22 JUNE VS 23 JUNE-9 JULY 2016.
How did the political parties fare before and after the vote? UKIP (8%) out-porkered the Conservatives (6%) largely off the back of a very popular tweet comparing Farage’s lies to the Nazis. Labour was lily white at less than 1 % of conversation…
After the vote, UKIP slides off the scale (down to 2%) – this is only because the public’s vitriol is redirected at Farage himself rather than at the party. Conservatives rise to 6% and Labour, wracked by division, rises to 4% of the conversation.
IN DETAIL: THE POLITICIANS
Individual politicians were identified and blamed in 50% of the total lies and deceit conversation since the beginning of 2016. Of this, David Cameron received 21% of the discussion (almost exclusively prior to the vote) and Nigel Farage followed at 13%.
In the pre (1 June- 22 June) and Brexit period, we see Cameron (21%) and Farage (22%) neck and neck in the dishonesty stakes, with Boris Johnson still a distant 3rd at 8% of the conversation.
This changes dramatically in the post Brexit period (23 June-9 July), as Cameron drops to 4% – his resignation being well received as an honourable, even honest expression of guilt. Boris Johnson rises to a whopping 24% of conversation and Farage holds onto second at 22%. Gove also climbs from 3 to 9%.
GENDER ANALYSIS: 1 JANUARY TO 9 JULY 2016
Crimson Hexagon was able to identify the gender of 64% of the posts analysed.
Throughout the conversation, male contributors are more focused on individuals and accountability, and women on a wide variety of topics.
In the period 1 June to 22 June 2016, the conversation was overwhelmingly male driven, with men contributing 72% of the conversation. The male topic wheel is as follows:
During the same period, the female topic wheel is as follows:
After the vote (23 June-9 July), women, while still underrepresented, rise to 36% of the conversation. The post Brexit male topic wheel is as follows:
The post Brexit female topic wheel is as follows:
While lying is a fairly accepted part of the political process, the toxicity of the Brexit campaign was unprecedented in modern UK politics. In this age of multiple 24 hour news channels and relentless social media comment, dishonesty is reported on and disseminated more than ever before.
Brexit exposed the desperation of both sides – though the leave campaign certainly seems guiltier than the stay campaign. And it is really these lies that have assisted in throwing politics on all fronts into crisis after the vote. All the major parties are experiencing seismic fault lines, and in the near future the political map is likely to be redrawn. At least we have the satisfaction of seeing politicians that lied or otherwise slipped up falling on their metaphorical swords!
What will the implications at the next general election – barring an early election only due in 2020 -be? Certainly by then social media will be even more widespread and advanced – and social media analysis with it. Politicians would do well to think before they speak, and avoid the double speak and outright dishonesty that has marked the Brexit campaign.
ABOUT THE CITIZEN RESEARCH CENTRE
The Citizen Research Centre is an organisation dedicated to investigating our societies and providing accurate, meaningful data that can be used to effect change – through knowledge, understanding of ourselves and ‘the other’ and through policy.
We describe what we do as social research. This is research done in order to improve and expand on our knowledge of the world by providing decision makers in social policy and intervention projects with the best data possible.
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