We are building a dataset to explore the relationship between the UK and the EU and how people talk about this relationship. We are using social media - in particular twitter, to find out what people are saying and to investigate how this changes leading up to a referendum on the UK's membership.
We have started by building a twitter database using the twitter API.
In fact we are going to end up building three databases. One on what is in the twitter sample stream, one gathered using specific hashtags and one gathered by following what we are calling influencers - basically those that talk specifically about the European Union and are listened to. This goes from MP's, to think tanks to academics to pressure groups.
Of course, twitter data is not representative of the whole population. It is used predominantly by young (74% are between 15 and 25 - see Beevolve) and politically active or by those with a particular axe to grind ( "Twitter is dominated by individuals with strong political views" see Barberá 2015) Nevertheless, social media is increasingly the space in which major events and political decisions are debated by large numbers of people. This became very clear during the recent referendum on Scottish independence. We will explore how the debate on the UK's relationship with the EU is framed and reframed within twitter and how it relates to the wider offline political conversation.
We have started off by gathering on specific hashtags. We started on 7th Aug 2015 using the terms , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
The wordle shows the frequency (bigger = more) of hashtags in the dataset on the 7th August.
We added , and on the 25th Aug
And in response to events in Europe we added on 3rd Sep
And across the whole time period
Obviously there is a lot more to do and this is just a taste of what we are looking at. Look out for our regular updates as the project tracks developments in the debate on the UK's continued membership of the EU and follow us .