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#EP2014 and #EU2014 Twitter Conversation Focuses on Parties over Personalities

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, May 22 2014

Live Election Weekend European Parliament Twitter Dashboard

A Twitter analysis of discussion around this weekend's European elections found that the two top candidates, Social-Democrat Martin Schulz and center-right Jean-Claude Juncker, were not provoking much passion in the conversation, which has tended to focus more on countries' national parties, especially those with an anti-EU or anti-Euro platform.

For the study, the Pew Research Center analyzed over one million tweets in English, German and French between May 1 and 14 that included various references to the European Election or the top candidates' names and examined the sentiment of the posts and the most discussed topics.

In terms of sentiment, the study found that a larger percentage of the German tweets were positive toward the EU at 39 percent, compared to 33 percent of the French tweets and 31 percent of the English tweets.

Mixed Twitter Views on the EU in English, French; German More Positive

However, though the study opted not to analyze tweets by geo-tagged location because of concerns over lack of accuracy, meaning that the German-language tweets likely also originated from Austria, the researchers found varying intensity of the conversation in the different languages. "For every aspect of the Twitter conversation studied, there were considerably fewer German-language tweets than tweets in English and French," the researchers note, suggesting that this reflects other survey data showing much lighter social media usage in Germany. "There were nearly a million (930,652) Twitter posts in English, and about one-third as many in French. By those standards, the German discussion was virtually non-existent, consisting of only 11,557 tweets."

Nonetheless, a common finding for tweets in all three languages was that of the national parties, which are responsible for conducting the campaigns, the ones with the most references were the ones most skeptical or negative toward the EU, from the U.K. Independence Party, the far-right French National Front and the Alternative for Germany anti-Euro party. Among the English tweets, the second and third-highest number of references were to the Labour and Conservative Parties. Among the French tweets it was the center-right Union for a Popular Movement and the Socialist Party and among the German tweets, the Liberal Free Democrats and the Social Democrats.

"Pew Research did not examine the national party tweets for sentiment, so it’s not known how many of these Twitter opinions about the anti-EU parties were positive or negative," the study notes. "But it is clear that they attracted the most attention in social media."

In Britain, recent polling had the UKIP at 27 percent, Labour at 26 percent, the Conservatives at 22 percent, Greens at 10 percent and the Liberal Democrats at nine percent. In France, recent polling had the National Front at 23.5 percent, the UMP at 22 percent and the Socialists at 16.5 percent. In Germany, recent polling had the CDU/CSU at 38 percent, the Social Democrats at 27 percent, the Greens at 11 percent, the Left at 8 percent, the Alternative for Germany at six percent and the Free Democrats at three percent.

Anti-EU Parties Get The Most Attention on Twitter

Pew performed additional analysis of the English-language tweets making reference to the top pan-European party candidates Juncker, Schulz as well as Ska Keller from Germany, for the European Green Party, Guy Verhofstadt, from Belgium, for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats and Alexis Tsipras, from Greece, for the European Left Party.

While Pew noted that the candidates may have more references in the languages of their home countries, the study found that "compared to the social media conversation about the national parties, there was a sparse English-language Twitter conversation about the five candidates vying for the European Commission presidency." Schulz and Juncker drew the highest volume of references followed by Verhofstadt, Keller and Tsipras. But while Schulz saw the highest amount with a total of over 12,800 references in English, British Prime Minister David Cameron saw nearly 134,000 references in the same time period.

"With the exception of Verhofstadt—whose verdict was mixed—the tone of the Twitter discussion about each of the candidates was more positive than negative," the study notes. "But what is more striking is the large percentage of assertions that did not carry a clear opinion about the virtues or liabilities of the candidates. The percentage of neutral assertions about the contenders ranged from a low of 65% for Tsipras to a high of 79% for Verhofstadt."

EU Candidates Get Very Modest Attention on Twitter

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