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by Charlotte Stockton 4th October, 2018
2 min read

Knowing May, Knowing You

At the start of September, we wrote about Theresa May’s diplomatic dancing. This week you’ll have seen she’s been playing the ‘dancing queen’ once again at the Conservative Party Conference. Many praised the Prime Minister’s keynote conference speech for showing more personality and emotion. After being branded the ‘Maybot’, dancing, joking and sharing personal stories was a much needed relief from the serious PM. Furthermore, her MPs seemed impressed by the message she shared for a strong Brexit, and a stronger Britain post-Brexit. However, the true test is not what journalists and her fellow party members say, but what the public post online. GK used our digital data capabilities to analyse online reaction to the Prime Minister’s speech.

As we explained in our last analysis of Theresa May’s popularity, online sentiment towards her has hovered around 40% negativity consistently this year. This reflects the stagnation of voting intention polls, where there has been little sustained change in popularity for any party. A month ago, when Theresa May visited South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, online sentiment towards her was 38% negative. Right now, in the two days since her speech, sentiment remains about the same at 41% negative. Interestingly however, there has been a 122% increase in post volume about “Theresa May”. This demonstrates the ability of Conference Season to capture the public’s attention.

Drilling down into the data, posts mentioning “Theresa May” and “speech” were slightly more positive with 37% conveying negative sentiment. However, only 23% posts mentioning “Theresa May” and “dancing”, or “dance” were negative. This large drop in negativity towards Mrs May when dancing is involved reflects our analysis about her dancing in Africa – people like it! In fact, they seem to like it even more now than a month ago. While in Africa, posts related to the Prime Minister dancing only decreased negativity by 8%; for the party conference dance, negativity decreased by 17%. Perhaps May’s online critics are big ABBA fans….

While her actual speech only made online negative sentiment decrease by 4%, suggesting that listeners were perhaps not particularly moved by it, they noted her stage presence. One of Theresa May’s biggest challenges is getting people on her side. By dancing and making jokes about last year’s disastrous conference, she embraces the British art of self-deprecation – the perfect tool to make even the stiffest upper lip curl into a smile. Perhaps a few more moves will have won the public over – if someone doesn’t bring up Brexit first!

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See more articles by Charlotte Stockton