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Data analysis shows support for Theresa May has halved

Tue 2 Jan 2018

Theresa May’s handling of Brexit has caused her popularity to drop by half, according to Twitter sentiment analysis.

Data scientists at Queen’s University in Belfast analysed what has been tweeted about the Prime Minister between June and December, and found that her popularity has dropped from a rating of 42 to 20.

It also found that in the same period, expressions of anger towards May doubled on the social media site.

The sentiment analysis, carried out by Adoreboard, which operates out of Queen’s, assesses how often feelings such as trust, anger, disgust, fear, sadness and surprise are displayed.

By processing this data through its algorithms, the firm can create an indexed rating system. It is this system that has witnessed May’s popularity drop so dramatically.

As well as carrying out sentiment analysis, the company’s website states that it also looks at the emotional intensity behind the sentiment. Though usually used in a business setting, the tool, which looks at the topics and themes behind the emotions expressed, demonstrates May’s difficult year in a quantitative manner.

Given her troubles getting talks moving as quickly as some hoped, as well as Cabinet reshuffles and sackings, combined with the strength of conviction that many feel over Brexit, extreme sentiment and emotional intensity are perhaps to be expected.

Adoreboard chief executive Chris Johnston noted the impact of Brexit on online emotion: “In the year ahead it’s likely to fuel a surge in online expressions of emotion, both good and bad, especially on the public perception of Theresa May’s performance.

“If the government, or indeed the EU negotiation team can tap into these feelings, then they could have the advantage of understanding the public mood, discover aspects they knew nothing about, or things that could surprise them.”

Twitter users are not known for their timidity when it comes to expressing their feelings towards politicians and celebrities, with Brexit a major flashpoint for debates.

As well as assessing May’s popularity, the analysis also found that EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier was more popular in the same period than his UK counterpart, Brexit Secretary David Davis.

Many of the most recent results under a search for Theresa May include fierce criticism, with one user describing the deal proposed by the PM as ‘treason’.


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