What’s happening on Twitter following announcement of a snap #GE17 election?

Twitter has exploded with debate following the announcement of a snap election in the UK which will take place on 8 June 2017. So far we have collected about 600,000 election tweets. But what are people saying about the election? And what are the top election themes that are echoing through the Twittersphere? With the University of Sheffield, we use the Political Futures Tracker to track the election hype in the hours after Prime Minister Theresa May made her election plans public.

What is the Political Futures Tracker?

The Political Futures Tracker is a text analytics programme that uses ground breaking language analysis methods. We developed it with the University of Sheffield's Department of Computer Science to analyse the 2015 General Election. The Tracker was used over the course of the 2015 campaign looking across the political spectrum, to identify emerging trends and innovation insights. We’re going to use it again, in 2017, to provide cutting edge information on the top topics and big Twitter hitters that are defining the election campaign.

The data is allowed to speak for itself

And we take a politically neutral position in reporting insights. This, along with the advanced text analytics methods we use, sets the Political Futures Tracker apart from other election monitoring tools.

This blog will run through the Twitter headlines on a day that has shaken up Westminster and set the political scene for the weeks and months to come.

Who are the top Tweeters?

No surprises here – many of the top Twitter users are the party leaders from Labour, the Conservatives and the SNP. We see that Donald Trump features in the top 20 chart, as well as a host of media organisations like the BBC, which have been reporting on the announcement of the General Election.

What are the top tags?

The top tags tell us what to follow in the weeks of campaigning to come, and enable us to get some handle on sentiment associated with the debate. For instance, we see a number of tags referring to political parties and hot topics, such as the NHS. Additionally, there are a number of tags associated with the Scottish Referendum – an issue that has re-emerged on Twitter with the broader feeling of disruption and change.

What are the top topics?

The top topics on Twitter tell us a lot about the tone of the debate, and what the key issues are that are likely to define campaigning running up to 8 June.

Democracy, Europe and Public Health are in the top five themes...

Which many people will not be surprised about. In the run up to the 2015 General Election we know that immigration featured heavily on the top topics charts, yet in the hours following May’s announcement, this topic was not highly mentioned and sits alongside many other terms in a long tail of political themes. This is particularly surprising given that migration has not only been discussed in the context of increasing control of UK borders, but have also been a feature of many sectoral (and economy wide) debates around skills and talent in response to the recent Industrial Strategy Green Paper.

This article from The Guardian dissects May’s announcement in depth, and analysis refers frequently to the political context in which this election was called. With Brexit negotiations round the corner, and an election looming, the political climate has hotted up.

What’s next?

Stay tuned to Nesta’s Political Futures Tracker blog series to take Twitter’s temperature over the coming weeks, and understand the issues that are defining the election this time around.


George Windsor

George Windsor

George Windsor

Senior Policy Researcher

George was a Senior Policy Researcher in the Creative and Digital Economy team.

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Ian Roberts

Ian is a Research Associate in the Natural Language Processing Group at the University of Sheffield.

Dr Dominic Rout

Dr Dominic Rout is a Research Associate working on analysing social media using natural language processing and information visualisation techniques.