Britons’ Tweets Foreshadowed Brexit Vote

Defying pollsters' prognostications, nearly two-thirds of tweets from the U.K. in the days before the vote indicated support for leaving the EU.
Katie Kuehner-HebertJune 24, 2016

Remember when pollsters were calling Brexit a dead heat? Maybe they should have taken notice of Twitter activity coming out of Britain in the days before Thursday’s shocking vote.

Nearly two-thirds (64.75%) of tweets from Britain posted between June 7 and June 15 and between June 20 and June 21 indicated support for leaving the European Union, according to a report by research firm Expert System in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen.

Much to the surprise of many pollsters, the Brexit referendum passed Thursday with 51.9% of the vote.

Drive Business Strategy and Growth

Drive Business Strategy and Growth

Learn how NetSuite Financial Management allows you to quickly and easily model what-if scenarios and generate reports.

Breaking down the results by the four U.K. countries, 69% of the tweets from individuals in England during the first period supported Brexit, rising to 77% between June 20 and June 21, while the percentage of support dropped among Scottish tweeters, from 67% during the first period to 58% during the second period.

Conversely, only 35% in Northern Ireland and 23% in Wales tweeted support for Brexit, taking into account both time periods.

Expert System suggested the difference between these results and the U.K. polls that showed a virtual tie “could be explained by a more active presence of voters who prefer to leave the EU on Twitter, and may potentially post many tweets, over those who prefer to stay in the EU or who are still undecided.”

Among the most discussed issues related to Brexit were jobs (16.26% of all tweets analyzed), immigration (14.87%), and government (14.63%). On the other hand, taxes (3.72%), pensions (2.46%), and security (1.99%) have played a marginal role in the debate, while references to inflation (0.05%) are almost non-existent.

While immigration has been the focus of the debate in England (16.76%), the report also shows peaks of discussion about U.K’s National Health Service (12.80%) in England. In Scotland, jobs have led the debate (20.30%), followed by immigration (19.98%) and government issues (19.03%).

Meanwhile, users in Northern Ireland are the only ones who have significantly discussed the borders (22%). Similarly, Wales is the only country where the currency (20.21%) has played a prominent role in the debate.