Reading the political mood in Germany with the SSIX project

Following on from its Brexit sentiment analysis, the Social Sentiment Index Project (SSIX) has continued its excellent work. Recently it lent another perspective to the German general elections. You can read the full Euractiv account of its findings, by Ama Lorenz, here

The piece which appeared in Euractive made the point that after Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory, solely relying on analysis from the “political middle” could lead to some rather misleading predictions.

There is a real problem in sentiment analysis of social media however: the voices that are emotionally loudest are also the most extreme. Parties that represent extreme points of view are often underrepresented or missing from the mainstream media but they tend to be overrepresented on social media in that their supporters are more willing to “comment” and “like” to demonstrate their support

The SSIX Project and the Handlesblatt Research Institute, together with the University of Passau under the umbrella of EU funding programme Horizon 2020, evaluated what the “feeling” on Facebook and other social media networks was regarding the elections.

This allowed them to produce a mood barometer that showed not just what was being talked about online, but how politicians, parties and policies were being discussed.

Eight EU countries, including Germany, Italy, Austria, Ireland and Belgium were involved in studying German sentiment towards the top candidates, political parties and issues.

According to Jan Kleibrink, a senior economist at the Handelsblatt Research Institute, first analysis showed that extreme parties tried to keep social and integration issues permanently and “loudly” dominant on social media.

They had a certain amount of success, as media discussions during the election campaign showed. On the other hand, discussions about areas like education and pensions were relatively few and far between, since they are issues that speak to older electoral groups.

From the 22nd of August, live data was recorded in the mood barometer. Using a scale from -1 (extremely negative) to +1 (extremely positive), an analysis was created using comments on Facebook and Twitter about attitudes towards issues like migration, foreign and financial policy.

The barometer provides an insight into how Germans actually felt about these issues. While the online community appears more positive about social issues than before, three days before the election, sentiment towards the Alternative für Deutschland’s main candidate dropped.

Migration stabilised in the lower positive range but the big winners were the CDU, followed by the FDP, the SPD and the Greens. The AfD and the Left clearly occupied the lower range of the “positive” scale.

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