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13 March 2017

Online Sentiment shows growing disapproval of Theresa May

Analysis of sentiment based social media data indicates increasingly negative perception of Theresa May’s leadership on a range of issues from Article 50 to the NHS and Trump

The findings of our latest research demonstrate that the majority of social media conversations focused on the Prime Minister hold a negative opinion of her leadership. Data showed that negative sentiment towards Theresa May has risen recently and 57 per cent of online mentions of the Prime Minister were negative at the latest measurement at the end of February.

Theresa May has not faced a popular election during her leadership of the Conservative Party. Yet, recent political events, from the imminent triggering of Article 50 to the election of Donald Trump and ongoing reform of the NHS, have provided significant issues to shape public opinion.

BrandsEye tracked all mentions of the Prime Minister in online conversations between 20th January and 24th February 2017. BrandsEye reviewed these mentions through search algorithms, machine learning and crowdsourced analysis to both verify and analyse the content of these conversations.

This analysis evaluates each key political issue as a factor motivating overall sentiment towards the Prime Minister. BrandsEye used this to develop a comprehensive, real-time measurement of public opinion of Theresa May as shaped by her handling of the NHS, Brexit, and relations with the US.

Last year, BrandsEye used the same methodology to predict both the election of Donald Trump and Brexit. In both instances, popular sentiment displayed on social media provided an accurate bellwether for the voting public in the US and the UK.

The primary contributor to this unpopularity has been the relationship between Theresa May and the Donald Trump presidency. Not only did negative sentiment during the recent state visit peak at 59 per cent, the Prime Minister’s handling of US relations led to a decline in neutral sentiment from 56 per cent prior to the visit to 40.2 per cent in its aftermath.

This shift from neutral to polarised opinion is critical to the outcome of elections, as it shows the confidence of sentiment and likelihood of voters taking a particular stance in the ballot.

Positive mentions of Theresa May reached their lowest point during the US visit, at just 0.6 per cent of all conversation. This was largely because of the Prime Minister’s failure to condemn Donald Trump’s recent immigration policy, as had been expected. While Theresa May was in Washington, conversations referring to her relationship with Donald Trump and the immigration ban represented 53 per cent of all conversations (467,957 mentions).

In the three days of the visit, the percentage of negative mentions increased significantly to 59 per cent from 41 per cent prior. Almost a month later, negative mentions had still not fallen below 57 per cent and positive mentions remained low at 2.7 per cent.

Sentiment towards Theresa May over a time Period

Further analysis demonstrates that US-UK relations represent an opportunity for the Labour Party to shape public opinion of the Conservative leader. A tweet from Andy Burnham was re-shared 20,720 times the day after May’s press conference with Trump, representing 77 per cent of all conversation that day. On 29th January, Jeremy Corbyn alone contributed to 6.6 per cent of all negative conversations about May when his post was shared 5,342 times.

As a whole, 54 per cent of mentions of Theresa May between 20th January and 24th February were negative. The Prime Minister was also criticised for her management of the NHS – 63.4 per cent of conversations focused on the health service were negative, greater than the corresponding sentiment towards her handling of Brexit and Article 50.

Sentiment towards Theresa May by subject

JP Kloppers, CEO of BrandsEye, said: “This research is a timely scrutiny of sentiment towards the Prime Minister. Theresa May has not had to campaign to secure the popular vote; she has not had to understand, analyse or shape the opinion of the electorate; and there has been a lack of regular approval ratings or reliable polls to gauge the popular view.

“Social media is a forum for repeated, rapid, and open discussion of opinion. This has enabled us to demonstrate that sentiment towards Theresa May has turned dramatically and quickly. In just three days in Washington, the Prime Minister has potentially redefined the popular view of her leadership.

“It is vital that politicians take note of the rapidly shifting, immensely detailed, and incredibly open opinions that are shared every day on social media – it will win elections.”

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