Electorate undecided? Analysis of latest BBC online discussion

With the election literally hours away, pollsters are feverishly trying to predict how the election will turn out. Although the predicted vote has remained relatively steady for the past week with the Conservatives holding a healthy lead that should be enough to see them the leading party if not with an outright majority, there is concern that the polls are not reflecting the opinion of the large numbers of undecided voters in this campaign.

A widely quoted figure today has been that 4 in 10 voters are still undecided as to who they will vote for, and the BBC have a discussion forum on the Have Your Say website on this topic. Over 1,700 comments have been made and we present the analysis that we have undertaken on this data. In the figures, the closer to the centre a word is, then the closer that word is in context to what is being analysed. To explain it another way, words in the centre of the figures are close in context, those further away on the edge of the figure are not as close in context.

To begin with, let’s examine the voters opinion towards Gordon Brown. Are they keen to see him removed from office? The figure below shows the contextual analysis of words that are found in context with Gordon Brown on the BBC discussion forum. Worryingly for Gordon Brown, we see the word ‘worst’ in close context with him along with other words like ‘hate’, ‘last’, ‘bye’ and ‘poor’. This would seem to reflect opinion that people have decided that they have had enough of him as Prime Minister.

If we extend this analysis to the Labour party, we would expect to see a similar picture. However, although the word ‘out’ is close in context we see that there are not as many negative words. Therefore although people feel strongly negative about Gordon Brown, it is possible that this does not extend to the Labour party as a whole, and it is perhaps no coincidence that we then see the Liberal Democrats coming through close in context with Labour as people see them as an alternative vote if they do not like Gordon Brown.

We also see words such as ‘tactically’ and ‘tactical’ coming through suggesting that as expected a proportion of the electorate will be not necessarily voting for who they want, but who they do not want in power.

Moving on to David Cameron, we again see alot of negative comments, which is rather surprising given his lead in the polls. This perhaps reflects a more left-leaning demographic of the BBC website and is not representative of the electorate as a whole. For example we see the word ‘evil’ in close context and other strongly negative words such as ‘danger’, ‘bad’, ‘nasty’ and ‘worst’. However there are also a number of positive words such as ‘future’, ‘won’ and ‘win’.

Finally, let’s look at the Liberal Democrats. Here we see the Conservative party in close context, perhaps alluding to the tactical nature of voting that may take place in a number of seats as noted earlier. Words such as ‘change’ and ‘seats’ come through strongly, with the concept of hung parliament also being evident in the data.

This analysis would seem to indicate that the Conservative win is not as clear cut as the polls suggest, although this may be due to the underlying demographic of the individuals who post on this particular site.

It will certainly be interesting to see the final result of the election and analyse the aftermath as whatever the result it will be sure to generate alot of interest and comment from individuals and pundits alike.

We will continue this analysis after the election has taken place, to report on the emerging themes that come out through online discussions, and how the public have responded to the final decision that came through their voting – whether tactical or not.

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