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2011-11-08

Tracking Swedish political sympathies in social media

This Fall has been more eventful than many in Swedish politics, in spite of no real political events taking place. The recently elected leader of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party has been tangled into a mess of possibly excessive and in any case overcompensated housing allowance remuneration.

Our take:

  • Centerpartiet is fading out of view in spite of a newly elected and positively received leader.
  • The Social Democrats have become the focus for negative sentiment in the blogosphere, even to the point of distracting the established negative sentiment visavi Sverigedemokraterna.
  • A leadership change in the Social Democratic party is imminent.

Our charts of political sentiment over the period of September and October show how the Swedish political scene is expressed in text. The issue is published by Aftonbladet, a left-leaning Stockholm tabloid, on October 7, and the activity of text written on the Social Democrats explodes in intensity on that day. The timeline in Image 1 illustrates this, and the pie chart in Image 2 shows how different the attention towards the parties is to their polled approval ratings, with most notably Social Democrats and the xenophobic Sverigedemokraterna taking the stage to an extent out of proportion to their following. The bar chart in Image 3 shows how the frequency of mention in October (red bars) has changed (blue bars) compared to the previous month. (Also notable is how Centerpartiet is fading out of view in spite of electing a new leader on September 23, and that the yearly congress on October 14-16 for the liberal party Folkpartiet hardly made any impression in the frequency of mention.)

Image 1: Frequency of occurrences of Swedish political parties in Swedish social media

Image 1: Frequency of occurrences of Swedish political parties in Swedish social media during September and October 2011.

Image 2: The proportion of attention awarded the different political parties in Swedish social media in October 2011.

Image 2: The proportion of attention awarded the different political parties in Swedish social media in October 2011.

Image Z: The attention awarded to the political parties in October 2011 (red bars), along with the change from September (blue bars).

Image 3: The attention awarded to the political parties in October 2011 (red bars), along with the change from September (blue bars).

The bar chart in Image 4 shows how much violent and aversive sentiment is expressed visavi the various parties as a proportion of all written text in the month of October (red bars) and change from September (blue bars). This shows us how the constant pressure from the liberally oriented blogosphere in Sweden on the xenophobic Sverigedemokraterna to an unprecedented extent has been replaced with aversion towards the Social Democrats. The timeline in Image 5 shows how Social Demokrats are different from Sverigedemokraterna: the latter party is a violent fringe party and is frequently mentioned in bursts of violent rhetoric, often on their own initiative, generating peaks in the graph. The Social Democrats, by contrast, have now risen to a new higher and steady level of violent and aversive mention.

Image 4: Violent and aversive attitude expressed toward the political parties in October 2011 (red bars), along with the difference from September (blue bars)

Image 4: The violent attitudes expressed toward the political parties in October 2011 (red bars), along with the difference from September (blue bars)

Image 5: Violent attitudes expressed in Swedish social media toward the political parties over time.

Image 5: Violent and aversive attitude expressed in Swedish social media toward the political parties over time.

Image 6: The proportion of violent expressions in Swedish social media related to the political parties in October 2011.

Image 6: The proportion of violent and aversive expressions in Swedish social media related to the political parties in October 2011.

Finally, the time line in Image 7 shows how uncertainty as expressed in the Swedish social media has peaked with respect to the Social Democrats.

Image 7: Uncertainty related to the political parties expressed in Swedish social media during September and October 2011.

Image 7: Uncertainty related to the political parties expressed in Swedish social media during September and October 2011.

In conclusion, this analysis shows that the Social Democrats are in a different place than they were only a few weeks ago. The level of strongly negative rhetoric tinged by violence is on a steady level only matched by the habitually violent Sverigedemokraterna and the uncertain sentiment expressed in relation to the Social Democrats adds to a confusing image of the party. This pattern of mention and the now established scarring of the image of the party will be impossible to break without a considerable change in discourse. We cannot see how the current leader of the Social Democrats will be able to achieve this – our prediction is that he will not stay in office for long, and that after a grace period, the length of which is determined more by decency than political expediency, he and the current leadership will be very rapidly replaced.

Category: case studies, sentiment analysis