Data analysis of the campaigns being conducted in the run up to the EU referendum has shown that the Remain camp is overwhelmingly relying on Project Fear, deployed in particular in economic terms, while the Leave campaign is more positive and broader based.
Analysis of activity by the two official campaigns’ Twitter accounts by The Telegraph shows that, over the last six months, @StrongerIn has been less positive and more fearful overall than its rival @Vote_Leave.
Both campaigns have resorted to messages designed to make people fear the consequences of backing the other team, but the Remain camp has deployed Project Fear more often, overwhelmingly on the economy.
This was also reflected in the “fear factor” of their tweets with Remain used more fear and anger terms per tweet than Leave.
Of the tweets published by both groups between 1 January and 1 June of this year, 66.8 per cent of Remain’s tweets were classified as positive, against 71.8 per cent of Leave’s tweets, when neutral tweets are excluded. Both organisations scored a generally positive result thanks in large part to tweets promoting events by their followers, which received a positive score.
And the analysis showed that, when talking about their key issues, the economy and immigration, both campaigns became more negative and employed more fear-based terms.
Remain racked up a fear score of 0.35 when talking about the economy – scores below 1.0 indicate net negativity – which means that they were more negative about the economy than Leave, who scored 0.3. However, Remain focused overwhelmingly on the economy; fully 22.3 per cent of its tweets were about the effect of a Brexit on the economy.
Meanwhile, Leave was more negative than Remain on its key issue, immigration, with a score of 0.32 to Remain’s 0.25 on the subject. But overall it had a much broader topic basis, tweeting about immigration only 7.2 per cent of the time.
A glance at the two twitter accounts as the referendum heads into the final week of campaigning bears the conclusions out.
This afternoon the Remain campaign pinned a tweet warning of dire economic consequences if Britons vote to leave the EU, urging their followers to “please RT [re-tweet]”. Pinning a tweet keeps it at the top of an account’s timeline, meaning it will be seen by anyone who visits the account.
— Stronger In (@StrongerIn) June 15, 2016
By contrast, the leave campaign’s pinned tweet urges people to show their support for the campaign by handing out a pledge card. It is signed off with the hashtag #ProjectHope.
— Vote Leave (@vote_leave) June 15, 2016
The analysis also found that, while Remain tweeted more often, racking up 3,226 tweets during the period compared to Leave’s 2,469 tweets, the Leave campaign had significantly more followers – 60,609 to Remain’s 39,594 at time of writing.
Explaining the methodology, a spokesman for The Telegraph said: “The topics were classified using text mining and artificial intelligence techniques to automatically classify tweets. The analysis was based on counts of tweets associated with each topic and sentiment score along with the total number of fear words used.
“Tweets were scored as positive, negative or neutral using twitter sentiment analysis techniques.
“For example, ‘the UK’s top economists have settled the economic argument – we’re better off IN Europe’ is positive, while ‘leaving Europe would mean losing our influence and our say, not only in the EU, but across the world’ is negative.”
The finding comes as George Osborne threatened to enact an emergency budget, in the event of a Leave vote, slashing spending and raising taxes to the tune of £30 billion.
He warned the budget would include measures to raise income tax levels, fuel duties, and inheritance tax; it would also see £2 billion cut from the pensions budget, a two per cent cut to protected budgets including the NHS and schools, and a five per cent cut from non-protected budgets including policing. No mention was made of planned cuts to the widely opposed Foreign Aid budget.
However, critics have pointed out that he would need to secure the backing of Parliament to enact the budget. Fifty-seven Conservative MPs have so far vowed to oppose the measures, meaning it would fail even without the help of Labour MPs who would be almost certain to oppose it.