Alberta’s election results this year took everyone by surprise – even the pollsters who predicted them. To their great relief, the seemingly unlikely forecast that the NDP would topple the Conservatives’ 43-year reign turned out to be absolutely spot on.
Given the uncertainty of the outcome and the polls’ previously shaky track record in the province, we thought it would be instructive to run the social media conversation around the elections through our platform and make a comparison.
The polls closed at 8pm GMT, and the flow of Twitter commentary on the elections peaked at 9:00pm GMT, when the CBC predicted the NDP victory on air. Therefore, we decided to compare the conversation for 12 hours before and after the CBC’s announcement.
This lexical map charts the 125 most important words in the discussion leading up to 9pm and their interconnections. Here, it reveals some pretty interesting themes. There is a huge push for increased voter participation, especially in the wake of Prince Edward Island’s outstanding voter turnout of 81% in Monday’s provincial election. It seems this spurred a little friendly competition – though ultimately Alberta’s turnout was only 58.25%, it’s the province’s highest turnout in 22 years.
Several tweets bantered about the potential inaccuracy of the polls. There was concern on the part of NDP partisans that polls would turn out to be disastrously wrong, or that they might even mislead part of the voting public into assuming the Conservative party would lose, and therefore not bother to go vote. This may have significantly contributed to voter turnout.
There is also a rather entertaining conversation on “pigs”, as the results began to come in.
We tabulated the mentions of different leaders and parties in order to determine their share of voice and turned up a couple of interesting tidbits. Notley and Prentice, but especially Notley, have an overwhelming number of mentions in their own right, indicating popularity reminiscent of Jack Layton’s “orange wave” in Quebec. Jean is much less proportionally significant, but this is not that surprising: he has been at the helm of Wildrose for a relatively short time.
Following 9pm, expressions of congratulations and relief by Notley’s supporters were at the heart of the discussion. Major sidebars concern references to Jack Layton, celebration of Greg Clark for winning the first seat for the Alberta Party, and schadenfreude around Prentice’s loss as well as anticipation of his resignation speech.
Though there was considerable anxiety on social media that pollster predictions of a NDP landslide would somehow “jinx” the party, they ultimately proved correct. The gender balance in the conversation was fairly even with slightly more men, and the Twitter demographics of the #abvote discussion show a middle-aged cohort of journalists, educators, writers and senior managers who used Twitter well to support their cause.
Overwhelming support of the NDP in general and Notley in particular is apparent in the Twitter conversation leading up to the peak of discussions, and relief, amazement, and pride are dominant in the aftermath. The alignment of social media analysis and advance polling predictions is good evidence for the validity of the former to bolster the latter – especially in the case of an impending major political upset.
The “orange crush” victory of the NDP in Canada’s most longstanding Conservative bastion has given way to fervent discussion of the results at the federal level. It will be interesting to see how the next federal elections play out in light of Alberta’s major political upheaval, and clearly worthwhile to pay attention not only to advanced polls but also to social media buzz as indicators of future votes.