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Twitter users turn on Brown after “bigot” gaffe

April 29, 2010

We’re still waiting to find out if Gordon Brown’s gaffe in Rochdale yesterday (if you missed it, he called a 66-year-old, lifelong Labour voter a “bigoted woman”) does serious damage to his party’s performance in the opinion polls. What is certain is that it was the first serious blunder of the election campaign and the shockwaves were immediately visible on micro-blogging site Twitter.

Throughout the election run-in U.S. research firm Crimson Hexagon has been conducting exlusive research for Reuters.co.uk — archiving all UK political tweets and analysing them for positive and negative sentiment. The three main parties have each experienced ups and downs throughout the campaign. Not surprisingly, we saw a spike in positive Liberal Democrat tweets¬† following Nick Clegg’s impressive performance during the first leaders’ debate, while positive sentiment towards David Cameron’s Conservatives has dwindled since we started analysing tweets on March 22.

But we have seen nothing as dramatic as the surge in anti-Labour sentiment which followed Brown’s confrontation with pensioner Gillian Duffy yesterday.

The graphic below shows anti-Labour tweets rising to 42 percent, up from 15 percent the previous day. Anti-Tory tweets fell from 23 percent to 14 percent, while negative LibDem tweets fell from 9 percent to 5 percent.

Twitter user @sara_sands posted: “Just when you think Gordon Brown couldn’t sink any lower, he insults an elderly lady. What a disgrace.”

After the PM went back to Duffy’s house to apologise in person, @greensdiary said: “Dear Gordon Brown: why do you not process the ability to apologise properly?” Another user, @Clairabell, simply said: “Gordon Brown – fail.”

AntiApr29

Perhaps surprisingly, positive Labour sentiment also went up, albeit by a much smaller amount. The next graphic shows pro-Labour tweets at 12 percent (up from 8 percent), pro-Tory tweets at an all-time low of just 3 percent (down three points) and pro-LibDem down from 23 percent to 14 percent.

ProApr29

The final graphic shows the net performance of each party on Twitter throughout the election campaign. Like the regular opinion polls, it shows the dramatic change in fortune for the LibDems,¬† which until the first leaders’ debate was regarded as the perennial third party of British politics.

NetApr29

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