We have predicted the result, but can we predict the seats?
Last week we predicted who would win the 2015 General Election. How successful we are will become certain in May, however before then we thought we would take it a step further. Can we predict the marginal constituencies?
This week we have set our team the challenge to use digital marketing to try and predict the top five marginal seats in the United Kingdom. These are the top five according to The Spectator newspaper. You can view the source here. Their job was to look at SERPs (search engine results pages), websites, statistics and Social Media to predict how each constituency will swing.
Who are the Top Five Marginal Constituencies?
There are five marginal constituencies worth mentioning. These are:
- Fermanagh and South Tyrone
- Hampstead and Kilburn
- North Warwickshire
- Camborne and Redruth
Fermanagh and South Tyrone
As the only seat that does not involve a member of the major parties, Fermanagh is the closest marginal seat in the UK. There are literally only four votes separating Michelle Gildernew of the Sinn Fein and independent candidate Rodney Connor. Both, for the sake of argument, have 45.5% of the vote.
At this level, especially with independent candidates we are looking at the personalities of those involved rather than at the parties as, from a party level, it is not even close. The Sinn Fein have far more coverage than an independent candidate.
From the outset it looks like Rodney Connor is taking the newspaper route whereas Michelle Gildernew is active on Social Media.
With that in mind the number of people who buy newspapers daily verses those who are on Social Media is a fascinating comparison. We have used Wikipedia as a source to draw the following graph.
As it can be seen, newspaper readership in the UK is, generally speaking, declining across the board. It does not mean newspapers are redundant however, it does limit the number of people an article can reach. The local newspaper in Fermanagh is the Fermanagh Herald. According to Wikipedia, it has a circulation of 13,169.
What needs to be understood is that the Fermanagh Herald is a politically neutral publication, meaning it will be covering both candidates roughly equally. With no Twitter or Social Media coverage this seriously limits Rodney Connor.
She may only Tweet once per day but Michelle Gildernew has over 9000 followers. This means that on average Gildernew is reaching an additional 240 people per day assuming it is not retweeted again.
With such close results, 240 people are enough to easily swing the Fermanagh and South Tyrone seat.
Now, we understand that there are a fair number of assumptions in place here - like those on Social Media do not buy the Fermanagh Herald. We also assume that more exposure is a good thing. To be honest there is very little negative about both candidates online. It will still be very close.
The prediction for Fermanagh and South Tyrone is that the Sinn Fein will not be leaving it anytime soon.
Hampstead and Kilburn
One of the far more interesting marginal seats in the campaign, Hampstead and Kilburn is a three-way split. It is between Tulip Siddiq (Labour), Simon Marcus (Conservatives), and Maajid Nawaz (Liberal Democrats).
Once more, to make the judgement we are looking at the engagement they have on their Social Media channels as well as the results they have in the SERP.
This seat, Hampstead and Kilburn, belongs to Maajid Nawaz of the Liberal Democrats. A massive anti-extremist and Twitter force, Nawaz has over 41k Twitter followers. Tulip Siddiq has almost 8000, and Simon Marcus has just over 1000.
Maajid Nawaz's website also blows his competitors out of the water in terms of style and content. Tulip Siddiq has a website as well but it is not half as impressive.
For Hampstead and Kilburn it comes down to who generates the most interest. To get a definitive number we have looked at Google Adwords, of all places, to see who is searched more often.
If the above is a fair representation of interest then this means that Hampstead and Kilburn will most definitely be a Liberal Democrat area.
One close to the CAB HQ, North Warwickshire is tied between Craig Tracey (Conservative) and Mike O'Brien (Labour). There are only 54 votes between them.
Although polls are currently suggesting a Labour majority during the next election this is an incredibly tough seat to call based on digital marketing.
In terms of Social Media, Craig Tracey does post more regularly, however Mike O'Brien has a stronger website. This means that the constituency vote comes down to two things.
The first is the average age of those in the constituency. A high average age would suggest that the majority of people would be less likely to be on Social Media. The second is the search volumes associated with their names, showing how many people are looking to learn more about them.
First let us explore this graph (source: Social Network Demographics Report for 2012):
The average age on Twitter is 37.7, the main social network we are looking at for this analysis.
According to the census in 2011 the average age in North Warwickshire is 42 with the median age being over 43. This means the majority of people will be over the age of the average Twitter user. Thus having a lot of Twitter followers is not necessarily a bonus here.
As it can be seen Mike O'Brien has the highest search and, it has to be said, the strongest website. His website appeals to both young and old, with relatively good information architecture.
We agree with the polls. The odds are this seat will swing towards Labour during the election.
The Spectator gave it a 74% chance of swinging Labour at the next election. We would say that based on our results this seems about right. We would however want to drop the prediction and say that it only has a 60% chance of swinging Labour, not 74%, based on the search volumes.
Camborne and Redruth
A slightly unusual constituency, Camborne and Redruth is between George Eustice (Conservatives) and Julia Goldsworthy (Liberal Democrats), who only had 0.2% between them at the last election.
All estimations are for this to go towards the Conservatives this election, a fair assessment but do the digital profiles of the candidates fit?
Once again this is a constituency where both candidates could come out on top. George Eustice does not use Twitter but he does use Facebook and updates it regularly. Julia Goldsworthy uses Twitter and updates that regularly. Both have decent websites.
So who will win?
At the end of the day it comes down to how engaged the audience is. Taking the past ten posts on both Social Media pages, the statistics are as follows:
It appears that Julia Goldsworthy suffers the same fate as the Liberal Democrats did in our wider analysis. This is namely by posting a fair amount but struggling in terms of interactions. Not the best by any means. Goldsworthy has fewer than half the total interactions as Eustice.
The people are engaging better with George Eustice. It is ultimately his race and, looking at those results, it is not even that close. Our predictions are incredibly different to those of the Spectator. We believe the below:
Finally, last but not least, we will be looking at the constituency of Thurrock, which is currently a Conservative seat. The race will be Jackie Doyle-Price (Conservatives) verses Polly Billington (Labour and former BBC Journalist).
Knowing the background of Polly Billington it is easy to predict that she will win this race, however, looking at the online presence it is hard to call. She has a large Social Media following and the standard Labour website. That being said, Jackie Doyle-Price also has a large following and website.
This being said, the outreach of Polly Billington is larger. She has a cleaner website.
Ultimately the race for Thurrock comes down to how much interest they both generate. Polly Billington has additional fan pages, however Jackie Doyle-Price has more social networks.
It turns out Jackie Doyle-Price has the larger search volume. This could be because she is an MP at the moment.
This one really is incredibly close and hard to call.
Added together, Polly Billington has a slightly larger social following, however, digitally speaking this could swing either way. It is nowhere near as clear cut as some of the other options.
CAB Studios Election Coverage 2015
There we have it, our predictions for the top five marginal seats in the country. For more information on our team and how we do our research, please visit our website. We will be doing a series of these articles throughout the campaign so make sure you stay up to date with CAB's research for the best prediction on the web.