Will Social Media Predict Scotland’s Decision?

The vote for Scottish independence is here, but the influence of social media is also up for debate.

Photo: Yes Scotland Facebook Page

The votes are already being counted today in the landmark Scottish referendum for independence, but social media researchers are just as interested in finding out whether the nation’s social networks can accurately predicted the outcome.

As reported by the BBC, the Yes Scotland activists in favor of independence from Great Britain have a slight edge on social media, while traditional polling gives a narrow win to the “No” votes in the Better Together camp.

Here are the stated social media figures as they stood before voting began this morning:

  • Twitter reports over 2.3 million uses of the #indyref hashtag in the past month. Popular hashtags hint that the Scotland’s Twitter users favor independence with 750,000 using #YesScotland and #VoteYes and only 230,000 using #bettertogether or #nothanks hashtags.
  • Facebook has counted even more posts, comments and likes on the issue with more than 10 million interactions in the same timeframe. The campaign page for the Yes side has 258,000 likes, while the No group has 182,000.

So why the disparity between the social count and the head count? RT points to research conducted over the last year by the University of Strathclyde, which shows a correlation between the Yes Scotland campaign’s own social activity and the widening social media following of the two groups.

The Better Together campaign has been consistently tweeting at a high volume since August of 2013, but the Yes Scotland group ramped up their efforts and eventually became the dominant social voice back in March. RT’s own analysis shows that the Yes campaign posts have also had considerably more reach overall.

In essence, the Yes Scotland group has waged a more effective engagement campaign on social channels. Some argue that those numbers are untrustworthy, since social media is a medium that traditionally attracts younger users who are more apt to favor independence. But in our view, the 48 percent of Scotland’s Internet users who are socially savvy are too big a group to discount.