UK’s EU Referendum: A Social Intelligence Overview

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UK’s EU Referendum: A Social Intelligence Overview


“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union, or leave the European Union?” I took to Synthesio’s Social Intelligence Platform to find out if social had any impact on the final result.

Since the United Kingdom joined the ‘Common Market’ in 1973, membership of the European Union has been a major topic of debate in neighbourhoods, pubs and since 1993, on the Internet. In David Cameron’s 2015 election campaign, he promised to renegotiate the UK’s membership in the EU and later, hold a referendum. Britain Stronger in Europe was the main group campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU, and Vote Leave was the main group campaigning for it to leave. In addition to this, political parties, trade unions and businesses are also involved in having their say on the outcome.

Panama Papers

Campaigning, which took place in the last few months showed social insights that have damaged the credibility of certain party leaders, but also how the British public can be swayed on which side to vote for as a result.

An example of this was the Panama Papers scandal and David Cameron’s involvement in this. If you are unaware of what the Panama Papers are, they are a number of documents (11.5mm) that detail financial and attorney-client information for more than 214,480 offshore entities.


The timeline above supports the online buzz surrounding Mr. Cameron and this latest scandal. The first big data spike occurred on the 4th of April when the papers were released and Cameron claimed he had no offshore trust fund. Fast forward two days to the 6th of April, and news digested when Cameron admitted that he had owned shares in Blairmore Holdings, an offshore investment company.

The Prime Minister was labelled a ‘hypocrite’ on social platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, after Cameron criticised complex offshore structures in 2012, saying that “they are not fair and they are not right.” Calls were also made for Cameron’s resignation on Twitter.



Despite the negative sentiment this incident attracted, David Cameron still had his backers, who wanted him to stay on as PM and lead the UK into the referendum.


From the 44-thousand mentions of the panama papers throughout April, 26% were negative mentions. This was a great indication that the Prime Minister’s credibility in the run up to the EU Referendum dwindled as a result of this scandal.

Pro-EU Leaflets

The democracy of the UK was put under significant pressure as pro-European Union leaflets started landing on doorsteps during the 11th and 12th of April. These leaflets cost the taxpayer £9mm and were designed to persuade citizens of the UK to take the Government’s stance on the referendum and vote to remain. This was not a popular move with users on social as many took to online platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram, to publicly reveal how they disposed of the leaflet.


However, not all of social media destroyed the pamphlets, some embraced them and discussed it with their families.


The Day of the EU Referendum

On the 23rd of June, the day started with users on Twitter sharing photographs of their dogs at the polling station using the hashtag #dogsatpollingstations. This story generated over 20,000 tweets in the span of a few hours and was one of the most prominent stories on social media throughout the day.

The EU Referendum was set to be a close encounter, and social data certainly confirmed this with a 53-47% split in favour of remaining in the EU. The main reason for staying in the EU was the ability to trade freely with other EU members, whereas the main reason for an exit was immigration laws.


So the UK has spoken, with 52% of the 33 million votes backing the UK to leave the EU. Social data shows there was almost a 50-50 split and the results of the referendum backed this up, telling us the country is completely divided on the issue.

With David Cameron leading the remain camp and effectively losing his battle to keep the country in the EU, the PM resigned from his post in the early hours opening up a contest for the hottest seat in parliament.

In financial markets, there was a large negative reaction: stock rates fell drastically, as well as the British Pound seeing a dramatic decline. This reaction was mirrored on social media with a general concern among British users for the economy’s future. No one can safely predict the future of the UK outside of the EU, however it has been one of the most hotly discussed political debates over the past 40 years, and once again democracy was the real winner.

Interested in hearing how Synthesio’s Social Intelligence platform was able to pull #Brexit data? Request a demo to find out if it can help your business.



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