Even if its impact is often overstated, the election is playing out on Facebook. So who is winning? We recently took a look at which party seems to be prospering, but new data from Fishburn, a public relations company, has uncovered how active each party’s supporters really are, how support differs across the papers, and how the party leaders are faring.
Here are their four key findings.
Ukip’s Facebook fans are far more engaged than most
On Facebook, the Ukip surge is very real. Nigel Farage’s party has the most enthused supporters, with an average post securing over 4,000 likes. In contrast, posts by the Conservatives garner around 2,000, and just 1,000 people like a typical post from Labour.
This research suggests there is real enthusiasm for Ukip, as opposed to relatively passive support for the main parties.
The Conservatives have used a significant online advertising budget to grow their Facebook page, and they have marginally more fans than Ukip, but their posts generate much less positive engagement.
Ukip’s success on Facebook comes in spite of a relatively unsophisticated approach, with the party capitalising on key moments like the Rochester & Strood by-election win and sharing simple graphics, but lacking the more advanced content strategy of the two main parties.
The Greens are winning over Independent and Guardian readers
The growth in multi-party politics is also reflected with the significant levels of support for the Greens among readers of centre-left newspapers. 29 per cent of Guardian readers who profess a political preference on Facebook show support for the Greens, compared to 28 per cent who support Labour, while the Greens are neck-and-neck with Labour among readers of The Independent. (Support for the Greens among other papers’ readers is negligible and included in “Other”.)
While this support will not necessarily translate into votes, it is striking to see this enthusiasm, compared with the apathy shown towards Labour.
Despite The Mirror being the only newspaper to endorse Labour at the last election, its readers are actually more likely to show support for the Tories on Facebook. Ukip is second most supported party among readers of the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.
David Cameron’s comparative popularity is most evident on Facebook
David Cameron has significantly more personal support than Ed Miliband. Cameron has over 200,000 “committed supporters” (people who only show support for one party) compared to Miliband’s 15,000.
While Cameron’s individual support is much greater than the support for his party, the reverse is true for Miliband. Labour’s brand is stronger than its leader.
Tony Blair is about as popular as Miliband on Facebook
Nine years after leaving office, Tony Blair still has significant support, and the ex-Labour leader has almost as many active Facebook supporters at Ed Miliband.
In terms of overall likes per page, the graph below shows how various parties and party figures rank.
Communications consultancy Fishburn worked with data scientists at Diktio Labs to analyse the political activity of nearly one million people (975,987) on Facebook.
Fishburn and Diktio looked at over 50,000 posts across a three month period (mid-September – December 2014).