Social Sentiment Analysis: David Ferrer v Juan Martin Del Potro. Brought to you by Wimbledon Insights

We hoped for some drama, but nothing prepared tennis fans for the thrills and spills of the match between the No.4 seed, David Ferrer, and the No.8 seed, Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro not only came back from what looked like a match-ending injury, but went on to win the match in a heroic performance.

IBM’s social sentiment analytics track how players are being perceived on Twitter throughout the match, watching not just the number of their tweets but their content, using sophisticated tools to decide what percentage is positive or negative. Ferrer began the match with a positive sentiment score of 83%, with Del Potro trailing at 79%. Then disaster struck. Del Potro fell badly in the very first game, aggravating an existing knee injury.

For a moment, it looked like the Argentinian would be unable to continue. “Can’t believe Del Potro has fallen in the first game. This was destined to be a five set thriller with him and Ferrer” tweeted @MattGriffen. Then Del Potro got up and continued the match. “Gotta feel for Del Potro. Brave man to carry on” posted @DanITFC. As Del Potro played on despite obvious pain, the tweets poured in, with over 1500 in a ten minute period. “Del Potro is a Legend, playing the match with an injured knee. Respect to him” said @MitchelJason95. “Unbelievable effort from Del Potro on Centre Court. I’d adore it if he managed to pull through” tweeted @haris_haseeb.

In fact, as the first set continued, Del Potro looked like he could not merely carry on, but actually take the set. “Del Potro is unbelievable. The guy is basically on one leg and is bossing this match!” tweeted @NotFredRhodes. As Del Potro claimed the first set, over 1600 tweets poured in during ten minutes, with 1500 also mentioning Ferrer. “People ask why I like Del Potro so much. I think from today’s performance, we can see why” posted @scott_grimes12.

The excitement continued in the second set, as Del Potro maintained his 79% social sentiment score, while Ferrer’s slipped slightly to 82%. “Dell Potro breaks! Serving for the second! He might actually do this!” tweeted @willdavenport1. “This is the best performance out of anyone in the men’s singles so far this Wimbledon. Brilliant from Del Potro” posted @aidan_duguid95. As Del Potro closed the second set 6-4, over 2000 tweets were posted in ten minutes.

Ferrer fought hard to stay in the third set, taking it to a tie-breaker, but Del Potro finished the set on top to end the match 6-2, 6-4, 7-6. Twitter didn’t reach the same level of fever-pitch as in the first two sets, but the praise kept flooding in. “Okay, fair play, Del Potro. That was incredible” posted @plkunnussijaa. “Del Potro through to the semis. Straight sets win against Ferrer, carrying an injury early on. Wonderful to watch” added @Rketts21.

Del Potro goes on to play Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals on Friday. For a detailed match report visit www.wimbledon.com.

Stuart Andrews

 

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Why is Labour surging in Wales?

A new poll suggests Labour will not be going gently into that good night. 

Well where did that come from? The first two Welsh opinion polls of the general election campaign had given the Conservatives all-time high levels of support, and suggested that they were on course for an historic breakthrough in Wales. For Labour, in its strongest of all heartlands where it has won every general election from 1922 onwards, this year had looked like a desperate rear-guard action to defend as much of what they held as possible.

But today’s new Welsh Political Barometer poll has shaken things up a bit. It shows Labour support up nine percentage points in a fortnight, to 44 percent. The Conservatives are down seven points, to 34 per cent. Having been apparently on course for major losses, the new poll suggests that Labour may even be able to make ground in Wales: on a uniform swing these figures would project Labour to regain the Gower seat they narrowly lost two years ago.

There has been a clear trend towards Labour in the Britain-wide polls in recent days, while the upwards spike in Conservative support at the start of the campaign has also eroded. Nonetheless, the turnaround in fortunes in Wales appears particularly dramatic. After we had begun to consider the prospect of a genuinely historic election, this latest reading of the public mood suggests something much more in line with the last century of Welsh electoral politics.

What has happened to change things so dramatically? One possibility is always that this is simply an outlier – the "rogue poll" that basic sampling theory suggests will happen every now and then. As us psephologists are often required to say, "it’s just one poll". It may also be, as has been suggested by former party pollster James Morris, that Labour gains across Britain are more apparent than real: a function of a rise in the propensity of Labour supporters to respond to polls.

But if we assume that the direction of change shown by this poll is correct, even if the exact magnitude may not be, what might lie behind this resurgence in Labour’s fortunes in Wales?

One factor may simply be Rhodri Morgan. Sampling for the poll started on Thursday last week – less than a day after the announcement of the death of the much-loved former First Minister. Much of Welsh media coverage of politics in the days since has, understandably, focused on sympathetic accounts of Mr Morgan’s record and legacy. It would hardly be surprising if that had had some positive impact on the poll ratings of Rhodri Morgan’s party – which, we should note, are up significantly in this new poll not only for the general election but also in voting intentions for the Welsh Assembly. If this has played a role, such a sympathy factor is likely to be short-lived: by polling day, people’s minds will probably have refocussed on the electoral choice ahead of them.

But it could also be that Labour’s campaign in Wales is working. While Labour have been making modest ground across Britain, in Wales there has been a determined effort by the party to run a separate campaign from that of the UK-wide party, under the "Welsh Labour" brand that carried them to victory in last year’s devolved election and this year’s local council contests. Today saw the launch of the Welsh Labour manifesto. Unlike two years ago, when the party’s Welsh manifesto was only a modestly Welshed-up version of the UK-wide document, the 2017 Welsh Labour manifesto is a completely separate document. At the launch, First Minister Carwyn Jones – who, despite not being a candidate in this election is fronting the Welsh Labour campaign – did not even mention Jeremy Corbyn.

Carwyn Jones also represented Labour at last week’s ITV-Wales debate – in contrast to 2015, when Labour’s spokesperson was then Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith. Jones gave an effective performance, being probably the best performer alongside Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood. In fact, Wood was also a participant in the peculiar, May-less and Corbyn-less, ITV debate in Manchester last Thursday, where she again performed capably. But her party have as yet been wholly unable to turn this public platform into support. The new Welsh poll shows Plaid Cymru down to merely nine percent. Nor are there any signs yet that the election campaign is helping the Liberal Democrats - their six percent support in the new Welsh poll puts them, almost unbelievably, at an even lower level than they secured in the disastrous election of two year ago.

This is only one poll. And the more general narrowing of the polls across Britain will likely lead to further intensification, by the Conservatives and their supporters in the press, of the idea of the election as a choice between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn as potential Prime Ministers. Even in Wales, this contrast does not play well for Labour. But parties do not dominate the politics of a nation for nearly a century, as Labour has done in Wales, just by accident. Under a strong Conservative challenge they certainly are, but Welsh Labour is not about to go gently into that good night.

Roger Scully is Professor of Political Science in the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University.

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