After a long and action-packed night of political theatre, we can now look back at how the general election was reflected on social media. While, as ever, television provided the main focal point for people’s attentions, Twitter was undoubtedly the main outlet for reacting to events and expressing joy, sorrow or amazement (delete as applicable).
The day of polling itself passed almost serenely. With MPs forbidden from campaigning while the polls were open, the most popular meme on Twitter was #dogsatpollingstations, where voters tweeted pictures of their hounds waiting patiently outside. There was also some mischief when David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Caroline Lucas’ Wikipedia pages were edited to display a large picture of Ed Miliband on an all-red background.
This mood of peaceful frivolity was to be shattered at 10pm, when the three major election broadcasters announced the result of their joint exit poll. The prediction of 316 seats for the Conservatives was so different from previous poll indications that pundits reacted first with amazement and then with disbelief. None more so than former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, who promised on the BBC that he would publicly eat his hat if it was correct.
Miraculously, within minutes his hat had managed to create a Twitter account in order to protest, gaining nearly 12,000 followers by the next morning. Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell had also promised to eat his kilt, but this garment remained stoic in its refusal to join the social networking age.
As the night entered the small hours, social media chat came to be dominated mostly by members of the dedicated and sleep-deprived media commentariat. It was they who led the reaction to high-profile MPs losing their seats, although the general public also joined in.
ElectUK, the app built by Tata Consultancy Services to monitor Twitter conversations during the election, reveals that while Labour and the Lib Dems suffered the most parliamentary losses, the most talked about departing MPs were the mavericks. Notably, Nigel Farage’s result may not have come in until 10:50am the next day, but he was nevertheless the most talked-about politician on Twitter with 19.5% of conversation.
Respect’s George Galloway, meanwhile, received plenty of attention as people commented on both his record and his being reported to the police for speculating about his likely poll result. Perhaps the most intriguing tweet, however, came from Bradford Brewery, which tweeted “Miss you babes @georgegalloway x“, and received 821 retweets for its trouble.
As for the most popular tweets overall, ElectUK reveals that the BBC’s exit poll announcement topped the list with more than 8,000 retweets. More surprisingly, however, second place went to someone known only as Jamie, who managed more than 5,400 retweets for saying: “If you’re a student and you voted for the Conservatives, I bet you £27,000 you’ll regret it.”
Clearly it won’t be long before the daily cycle of policy debate gets back in full swing. But for now, Twitter users could be forgiven for taking a break.
Designed, built and delivered by Tata Consultancy Services, ElectUK turns your smartphone into an advanced social media analytics tool, giving you the ability to identify and share online trends around the upcoming election.
Please note: the ElectUK app is analysing the data and helping to identify trends in online conversations around the election, it is not promoting or criticising any party or political view.