Full Duplex has partnered with Abacus Data to provide complementary analysis of the Ontario election. Abacus Data is conducting online surveys using more traditional polling methodologies. Full Duplex is conducting analysis of Ontario election activity using Sysomos Heartbeat and MAP, and our own proprietary analysis tool, Compass.

Today’s analysis considers some high level numbers related to content generation and participation. Tomorrow we’ll look at how the leaders and parties are faring within the chatter, including sentiment analysis and trends. Wednesday, we’ll look at issues and how they’re playing out online.

This week’s analysis looks at May 2 through 25, inclusive (with a few looks at the last six days).

Twitter dominates online election activity

Twitter continues to dominate online chatter. This is typical these days. Twitter allows people to be short and quick. Typical usage within the political chattering class is to re-broadcast a statement, piece of content or headline issued by someone else, state an opinion or issue a zinger. All of these uses take far less effort than writing something more substantive for Facebook, a blog or forum, and less technology and skill to record a video. Twitter has become a real-time, self-selected focus group. There’s a lot of information to be gleaned from the chatter.

Between May 20 and May 25 (inclusive), the Ontario election and related people and issues have been mentioned in 85,199 tweets (93% of evaluated online chatter), 3,262 news articles (3.5%), 2,188 publicly-visible Facebook posts (2.3%), 383 blog posts (0.4%) and 178 forum threads (0.1%). The 53 relevant YouTube videos were too few in numbers to rank. In all, there was an average of 15,210 online mentions of the election each day.
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Since the election was called, there has been 326,801 relevant Twitter mentions (93.1% of evaluated online chatter), 11,737 news articles (3.3%), 9,917 publicly-visible Facebook posts (2.8%), 1,573 blog posts (0.4%) and 766 forum threads (0.2%). The 191 YouTube videos account for less than 0.1% of the mentions. This works out to be an average of 14,624 mentions per day between May 2 and May 25, inclusive.

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Many participants, many more tweets

In all, 68% of participants in election-related chatter have come and gone in a single tweet. That means, a very large number of participants are not very engaged in the chatter. They typically retweet comments, content or headlines shared by others and leave. These people offer analysts (and campaign teams) the opportunity to register another potentially new expression of political affinity based on direct or inferred of sentiment/stance.

There is a greater chance of determining affinity among those who tweet more often. We look at some additional categories. Those who tweet eight or more times include those who work in the media, analysts, political players (including candidates and members of campaign teams) and political enthusiasts.

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Participation trends

This next graph is particularly interesting since it allows us to determine if participation in the chatter has hit its maximum threshold. As long as there are new participants, we can expect to see new expressions of opinion and political affinity. When the the participation curve plateaus, we’re be analysing an echo chamber where the most notable information could be declarations of change in voting intention.

The graph features three lines. One shows the number of tweets issued each day, the number of unique contributors each day, and the trend line indicating cumulative participation over time. By the end of May 25, there had been 37,071 unique participants.

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Some deeper analysis allows us to determine growth rate of different levels of participation. The lower levels of participation continue to grow, though at slightly different rates. The one-time tweeters line is still on a fairly steep trajectory. Once it levels off, the echo chamber is established. The 2-4 tweet group continues to capture new participants. However, the 5-7 and 8+ tweet lines have essentially off at 2,930 and 6,533 participants, respectively.

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Just how active are these people? This graphs shows the number of unique tweeters in the 8 or more tweets group who tweet on the election each day, along with the number of tweets they issue. Over the course of election, this group of 6,165 tweeters has issued 258,305 tweets. That’s an average of nearly 42 tweets each. Collectively, this group accounts for 79% of election related tweets.

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Mostly amplification

Like most political chatter online, the Ontario election is seeing mostly amplification (59%). This means people are mostly re-broadcasting headlines, content and “zingers” issued by other people as regular tweets (29%). And true to online political form, conversation represents a very small portion of the activity (12%).

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Mostly low and medium “authority” rankings

Sysomos assigns authority rankings to participating Twitter accounts based on the size of their Twitter communities, how much content the account issues, how often the user is retweeted and how often the account engages in Twitter exchanges. Twitter authority is not always consistent with real credibility. Someone who’s particularly powerful in the political world could be completely irrelevant in these rankings based on their own Twitter patterns.

Most participants in the Ontario election discussion have a low authority ranking (58%). There’s a healthy number of participants in the medium category (41%) and a very small portion with high authority rankings (1%). The high authority group includes a healthy number of media organizations and journalists, and popular political players, analysts and celebrities.

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Participation skews male

Consistent with general online political chatter, participation skews male. This suggests that men are more likely to voice their political opinions online than women.

Interestingly, the propensity to engage in online political chatter doesn’t always translate to the voting booth. In both the 2011 and 2008 federal elections, women voted in higher numbers than men. According to Elections Canada, “for the 2011 general election women participated at a higher rate (59.6%) than men (57.3%), and this was true across all age groups up to age 64, where men started participating more than women. This is the same pattern seen in the previous election in 2008.

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Popular hashtags

#onpoli tops the list of most popular. It is the hashtag associated with Ontario politics. #voteon is the most popular election-specific hashtag. Others which didn’t rank, including #onelxn and #onelxn14.

The #cdnpoli hashtag applies to Canadian politics and #topoli to Toronto politics. #olp, #ondp and #pcpo represent the Ontario provincial Liberals, NDP and PC’s respectively. #stophudak is a hashtag used by critics of Tim Hudak.

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Most popular tweet

A May 21 tweet from Twitter user @meanwhileincana earns bragging rights for having issued the most popular tweet between May 20 and May 25. As of the writing of this post, the tweet has accumulated 369 tweets and 137 favourites.

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Coming tomorrow…

Tomorrow’s analysis will include comparison of leader mentions and sentiment.

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