People On Facebook Didn’t Think This Was The “Brexit Election” – BuzzFeed News
People on Facebook shared more stories about fox hunting than about Brexit over the course of the general election campaign, according to an analysis of the most shared issues since the vote was called.
Young voter registration, the NHS and Jeremy Corbyn’s security record were topics all more shared than stories around Brexit, BuzzFeed News analysis reveals.
And several major political developments in the campaign which featured prominently in the newspapers, such as Labour’s nationalisation plans and the Conservative u-turn on social care, also failed to set social media alight, compared with other issues like the NHS or school meals.
The BuzzFeed News Social Barometer has tracked the 250 most-shared links about the election on Facebook, and their sentiment, since Theresa May announced her intention to go to the polls on April 18. It has previously shown that stories that are pro-Labour or anti-Tory have consistently been shared far more than their right-wing counterparts – and that even among right-wingers, none of the most shared stories were supportive of Theresa May.
As the campaign ends, we’ve analysed the most viral articles of entire period and grouped them by topic, to see which broader issues and themes dominated the online conversation. Unsurprisingly, the strongly pro-Labour trend is relected here too, with the single most viral topic being endorsements of Jeremy Corbyn from figures as diverse as Danny DeVito, grime star Akala, and “British volunteers fighting against Isis”.
In what was supposed to be “the Brexit election”, it might be surprising that Brexit only places eighth on the list – two places behind fox hunting. What’s more, of the stories about Brexit that did go viral, not a single one was about the parties’ differing visions for Brexit.
Instead, they mostly focused on Gina Miller’s efforts to crowdfund an anti-Brexit tactical voting campaign, and general news about Brexit that only partly touched on the election campaign – such as the single most viral Brexit story, the Guardian’s “EU leader: UK would be welcomed back if voters overturn Brexit”, in which European parliament president Antonio Tajani alluded to the possibility of a new government changing course on Brexit but without dicussing any specifics.
Despite Brexit being the reason that Theresa May gave for going to the polls – and despite the Liberal Democrats’ attempts to become the default party of Remain voters – the so-called “Brexit election” seems to have featured almost no actual discussion of Brexit.
Unsurprisingly, given the events of the past few weeks, terrorism and security have been a dominant feature of the campaign. Jeremy Corbyn’s views on ISIS and the IRA were a major source of viral articles in the closing weeks of the campaign, coming fifth on the list, and represented one of the few issues that was fairly evenly split between anti-Corbyn and pro-Corbyn articles. “Jeremy Corbyn said Isil supporters should not be prosecuted for ‘expressing a political point of view'” was an example of the former from the Telegraph, while the Independent’s “Why Jeremy Corbyn has the best long-term plan for tackling terrorism on British soil” is representative of the latter. Meanwhile Theresa May’s own track record as home secretary, particularly regarding cuts to police numbers, was also the source of several highly-shared articles.
Several stories that dominated much mainstream coverage during the campaign miss out on being in the top twenty most-shared, such the so-called “dementia tax” that forced Theresa May into a social policy u-turn and damaged her “strong and stable” campaign strategy. (It comes in at number 25 on the list, two places above Tory plans on ivory sales.) Only one piece that specifically focused on Labour’s nationalisation plans, which dominated newspaper front pages when their manifesto leaked, made it into the 250 most viral stories, leaving the topic down at number 50 on the list.
Another major topic of the campaign was Diane Abbott’s media appearances, after several widely criticised interviews. In the later stages of the campaign, the Conservatives made Abbott herself a key focus of their campaign, drawing accusations of racism. Abbott temporarily stepped down as shadow home secretary due to ill health the day before the polls opened.