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.

Yesterday we reported on the issues which have the greatest number of online mentions between May 20 and 25. Counting the number of mentions that meet a certain criteria — including issue-relevant terms — is a fairly popular way of identifying the most talked-about issues. Today we consider the volume of activity and associated Twitter participation rates for each of the five most-discussed issues.

Overall participation in the five most-discussed issues

The most popular issues between May 20 and 25 were, in order, employment, education, taxes, energy and economy. In fact, these issues, in some order or another, have been the dominant issues for most of the election. The number of relevant online mentions (tweets, Facebook updates, news articles, blog posts, forum threads and YouTube videos),  for each issue spanning May 2 through 25 are as follows (sorted by their May 20-25 rankings):

  1. Employment 50,895
  2. Education 21,737
  3. Taxes 18,670
  4. Energy 19,586
  5. Economy 16,943

That’s a healthy number of online mentions. Those who are unfamiliar with measuring online activity might believe these numbers are synonymous with participation. That would be incorrect. In fact, the number of participants is significantly lower than that, suggesting the volume of mentions emerge from an echo chamber of sorts.

The number of participants (with average participation rate in parentheses)  for these issues spanning May 2-25 are as follows (sorted by their May 20-25 rankings):

  1. Employment 5,110 (10 average mentions)
  2. Education 1,895 (11.5 average mentions)
  3. Taxes 1,245 (15 average mentions)
  4. Energy 1,481 (13.2 average mentions)
  5. Economy 1,282 (13.2 average mentions)

Basically, this means that, on average, there is a small number of participants in each issue discussion, each publishing 10 or more mentions about the issue. You can understand, then, that sentiment numbers based on participants rather than participation rates can tell a different story. Basing sentiment purely on the volume of traffic is similar to measuring the relevance of a rally solely by the decibel level of the chants rather than the number of participants in attendance.

This doesn’t mean volume of activity is not an important metric. Spikes and swells in issue-specific chatter indicate the emergence of new information, announcements, activities, events and discussions. Increases in activity help us understand if an issue is attracting attention, and falls suggest fatigue, disinterest or resolution.

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We can dig deeper into the degree of participation in an issue, as well. Using the Full Duplex Compass tool, we can organize participants into groups based on their rate of participation. For this analysis, we chose to focus on Twitter participants, organizing them into four groups:

  • Least engaged: Those who have issued only one tweet on the issue
  • Moderately engaged: Those who have issued two to four tweets on the issue
  • More engaged: Those who have issued five to seven tweets on the issue
  • Most engaged: Those who have issued eight or more tweets on the issue

The rest of this post features analysis of growth trends in the participant groups spanning May 2-25. The graphs suggest that the most engaged participants generally jumped right into discussions on the issues while less engaged participants (likely those who aren’t directly interested in politics or the election) only started to weigh in or express an opinion on the issues during the second and even third week of the election.

This is not entirely surprising. Participants who have issued eight or more tweets on any given issue are probably media, analysts, issue stakeholders, political players or political enthusiasts. They were likely participating in relevant chatter long before the election was called.

Employment participation

The most engaged participants in employment related chatter were active early in the election cycle. Still, Tim Hudak’s May 9 release of his Million Jobs Plan was the true catalyst for three of the four participant groups. Each of those three experienced noticeable jumps in participation that day.

Growth of two most engaged groups essentially stalled around May 14, while to two least engaged groups are still experiencing growth. That’s just two days before the two least engaged groups experienced a sudden uptick in growth — a trend which continued through May 25. This means that Canadians who are less likely to participate in online chatter are still registering their thoughts and opinions on matters related to employment.

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This list identifies the number of employment-related tweets issued by each participant group:

  • 1 tweet: 2,028 participants, 2,028 tweets
  • 2-4 tweets: 1,539 participants, 3,319 tweets (average 2.2 tweets/participant)
  • 5-7 tweets: 418 participants, 1,972 tweets (average 4.7 tweets/participant)
  • 8+ tweets: 1,125 participants, 32,133 tweets (average 28.6 tweets/participant)
  • Overall: 5,110 participants, 39,452 tweets (average 7.7 tweets/participant)

Education participation

Education was a bit of a late-bloomer issue. Despite a relatively small group at the start, the most engaged have experienced noticeable yet steady growth to its apparent plateau 0n May 20. The more engaged group continues on a gradual growth slope while the two least engaged groups continue to grow in size. The three less active groups got off to a very slow start, apparently discovering the education issue in three stages: first on May 9, second on May 14 and third on May 20.

The least engaged group is the largest in size, and still experiencing sharp growth.

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This list identifies the number of education-related group participants and the number of tweets issued by each participant group:

  • 1 tweet: 855 participants, 855 tweets
  • 2-4 tweets: 499 participants, 1,184 tweets (average 2.4 tweets/participant)
  • 5-7 tweets: 147 participants, 733 tweets (average 5.0 tweets/participant)
  • 8+ tweets: 394 participants, 10,328 tweets (average 26.2 tweets/participant)
  • Overall: 1,895 participants, 13,100 tweets (average 6.9 tweets/participant)

Taxes participation

Taxes are a safe bet for strong public interest. Still, initial participation was quite low at the start.

Unlike employment and education, the largest participating group within taxes through May 25 is the most engaged group (8+ tweets). That will likely change this week when it appears the accumulation of a few more least engaged participants will push that group past the most engaged.

Growth of most engaged group apparently stalled on May 22, and growth of the more engaged group all but stalled on May 14. Meanwhile, the two least engaged groups are still picking up new participants at a healthy clip.

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This list identifies the number of taxes-related group participants and the number of tweets issued by each participant group:

  • 1 tweet: 389 participants, 389 tweets
  • 2-4 tweets: 328 participants, 721 tweets (average 2.2 tweets/participant)
  • 5-7 tweets: 123 participants, 508 tweets (average 4.1 tweets/participant)
  • 8+ tweets: 405 participants, 10,616 tweets (average 26.2 tweets/participant)
  • Overall: 1,245 participants, 12,234 tweets (average 9.8 tweets/participant)

Energy participation

Ontario’s energy system has been a notable news topic for some time including this past autumn during which the Liberal government release its long-term energy plan. Not surprisingly, the most engaged group is tuned in to this issue. The public? Not so much. It’s really only become a concern for the public in terms of the cost of electricity. Which probably explains why the three less engaged participant groups didn’t really jump into issue-related chatter around May 12.

Growth of the most engaged group slowed significantly around May 15. Indications are it reach peak participants on May 22. The next-most engaged group is still growing through at a much slower rate than it did leading up to May 22. The two least engaged groups are still growing in size at a decent rate.

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This list identifies the number of energy-related group participants and the number of tweets issued by each participant group:

  • 1 tweet: 465 participants, 465 tweets
  • 2-4 tweets: 359 participants, 822 tweets (average 2.3 tweets/participant)
  • 5-7 tweets: 116 participants, 547 tweets (average 4.7 tweets/participant)
  • 8+ tweets: 541 participants, 11,148 tweets (average 20.6 tweets/participant)
  • Overall: 1,481 participants, 12,982 tweets (average 8.8 tweets/participant)

Economy participation

With the exception of the most engaged group, the number of people interested in the economy was pretty small at the beginning of the election campaign. There were three bumps during the campaign: once on May 9, the second time on May 14 and the third time on May 20.

The most engaged group stopped growing on May 21. The more engaged group is still growing at a marginal rate, though it saw a significant drop in growth rate on May 16. The two least engaged groups continue to grow; the least active group at the greatest rate.

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This list identifies the number of economy-related group participants and the number of tweets issued by each participant group:

  • 1 tweet: 417 participants, 417 tweets
  • 2-4 tweets: 291 participants, 626 tweets (average 2.1 tweets/participant)
  • 5-7 tweets: 107 participants, 432 tweets (average 4.0 tweets/participant)
  • 8+ tweets: 467 participants, 8,995 tweets (average 19.3 tweets/participant)
  • Overall: 1,282 participants, 10,470 tweets (average 8.2 tweets/participant)

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