[One small warning – if you might be offended by some of the swear words or disrespectful phrases actually used on Twitter, please (i) don’t read further (ii) don’t complain! Some people can be quite rude. If you’re interested in finding out what people are actually saying, read on…]
N.B. It is likely that, due to limits/bugs in Twitter’s “geocode” parameter, the data used is biased towards the North of England and Scotland. We used Twitter’s “geocode” parameter to limit the search to the UK. There have been problems with this in the past, so the absolute tweet volumes above may not be reliable. We’ll need to run some experiments to try estimate the effective radius covered…
The first UK tweet in our sample [see below for methodology] relating to Margaret Thatcher’s death appeared at 11:48 on Monday the 8th of April 2013. @ThomasPrice182 wrote simply: “Sh*t thatcher is dead!!!” [I’ve *’d out some swear words in the text for the benefit of the search engines.]
Tweet volumes quickly grew over the next few hours and days from approximately 35 a day in the preceding 5 days to 44,000 on Wednesday the 9th.
Number of UK Labelled Tweets in Days Leading up to Margaret Thatcher’s Death (Note the spike from 11:48am on Monday)
Number of tweets in our sample from within the UK mentioning the word “Thatcher”.
Monday 8th April
The Wordle below given a visual overview of what people were tweeting on the day of Margaret Thatcher’s death:
Most common words in UK Tweets mentioning Thatcher on Monday 8th April. Click for a more detailed PDF version.
The top 3 words, “Thatcher”, “Margaret” and “#Thatcher” have been omitted, as they would dominate the picture. This leaves a top 5 most used words of “RIP”, “Dead”, “Died”, “Death”, “People”, which seems like it would be expected. Here’s the most popular tweets containing “RIP”
- RT @Reverend_Makers: She was too young for u anyhow lad “@Harry_Styles: RIP Baroness Thatcher .”
- RIP Margaret Thatcher
- RT @StewartWood: RIP Margaret Thatcher. She showed us that real change inspired by values was possible, & whatever our values, we should always remember that
- RT @ToniMalyn: THIS IS AMAZING RT @CounteractMag: Harry Styles tweets ‘RIP Baroness Thatcher x’.\n\nOne Direction fans respond. http://t.co/DnRal9mgOU
- RT @MannyNorte: Damn…. RIP Margaret Thatcher. The ORIGINAL woman of power in the UK…..
However, the next most tweeted word was “@Reverend_Makers“, the account of the band Reverend & The Makers who posted a number of more negative comments which were highly re-tweeted such as
- “RT @Reverend_Makers: Thatcher divided opinion in Sheffield. Half of us hated her. The other half really f*ckin hated her”
- “RT @Reverend_Makers: She’s hell bound Thatcher!! Make no mistake”
- “RT @Reverend_Makers: Mandela 1 Thatcher 0″
- “RT @Reverend_Makers: What with Jimmy Saville and Thatcher dying its been a good year for minors”
- “RT @Reverend_Makers: Maybe they should use the 2.5 million thatcher made from the diamond mines of apartheid South Africa to pay for the funeral. We r skint eh?“
Tuesday 9th April
Most common words in UK Tweets mentioning Thatcher on Tuesday 9th April. Click for a more detailed PDF version.
Again, very common words, this time including “Thatchers” were omitted. @Joey7Barton and @PiersMorgan are mentioned a lot, two of the most popular tweets being from @PiersMorgan:
- “Amusing to see Le Pitbull @Joey7Barton trashing Thatcher for her ‘tyrant’ behaviour. Wait for YOUR obituaries, mon ami…. ” and
- “@Joey7Barton millions had far worse upbringings than you, Le Pitbull, but don’t go around hitting people. Or is that Thatcher’s fault too?“
These were in response to tweets from @Joey7Barton including these two
- “People shouldn’t sugarcoat Thatcher. History must remember her for what she was. A tyrant who ruined this country, to allow herself and…“
- “…her cronies to privatise British industries for their own financial gain. She won’t be remembered fondly where I’m from.
The “People” tweets include:
- “RT @NME: Morrissey: ‘Margaret Thatcher did not give a sh*t about people’ http://t.co/H3FnFjn5Wc“
- “RT @DietmarHamann: Think about Maggie Thatcher what you want.But seeing people on TV celebrating a former PM’s death spraying champagne makesme physically sick“
- … and of course the tweets from @PiersMorgan and @Joey7Barton which also contain the word “people”!
Wednesday 10th April
Most common words in UK Tweets mentioning Thatcher on Wednesday 10th April. Click for a more detailed PDF version.
By Wednesday, the Funeral was the big issue, and @frankieboyle was being heavily re-tweeted. The following tweets were the most re-tweeted ones containing the word “funeral”:
- “RT @frankieboyle: Anybody know what Emeli Sande is singing at Thatcher’s funeral?”
- “RT @frankieboyle: If N Korea lob a nuke at Thatcher’s funeral they should get just about every c*nt in Britain”
- “RT @OwenJones84: Bank balances of the wealthy did very well in the 1980s. I’m sure they could have a whip-round to cover the expense of Thatcher’s funeral.“
- “RT @BBCBreaking: More than 700 armed forces personnel to take part in funeral of former UK Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher, Downing Street says“
- “RT @Independent: The Daily Cartoon: Margaret Thatcher’s funeral http://t.co/GW62t15Ted“
Thursday 11th April
Most common words in UK Tweets mentioning Thatcher on Thursday 11th April. Click for a more detailed PDF version.
BBC QuestionTime overshadows other keywords on Thursday:
- “RT @OwenJones84: Thatcher won elections because opposition was hopelessly divided. Tory vote in 1979 was lowest since WWII and declined thereafter #bbcqt”
- “RT @OwenJones84: The unemployment rate in Sheffield was 4% when Thatcher came to power. By the time I was born in 1984, it had gone up fourfold #bbcqt”
- “RT @ShappiKhorsandi: Thatcher contributed as much to feminism as Lisa from Gosport on Page 3 who dream is to one day cuddle a koala #bbcqt #I’mnotevenwatching”
- “RT @StuartWilksHeeg: If it’s “monstrous to say Margaret Thatcher defended apartheid” why did Cameron apologise for it in 2006? http://t.co/na05ZfzUvr #bbcq”
- “RT @bbcquestiontime: MT: @ryanlaccohee Young people may not have been born during Thatcher’s reign, but they’re still victims of it. #bbcqt”
Friday 12th April
Most common words in UK Tweets mentioning Thatcher on Friday 12th April. Click for a more detailed PDF version.
The BBC and its position regarding the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” attracted much attention on Friday.
- RT @piersmorgan: Margaret Thatcher would have loved all the ding dong over Ding Dong. She always relished her critics behaving idiotically.
- RT @BBCBreaking: BBC to play short clip of Ding Dong – song adopted by anti-#Thatcher campaign – in Sunday’s chart show if it makes Top 40, says @BBCR1 boss
- RT @NME: Margaret Thatcher “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” campaign is an embarrassment for the Left, writes @danmartinisnot http://t.co/1ACt1R7ujY
- RT @CassellBryanLow: ‘Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead’ shoots to No. 1 as anti-Thatcher protesters revive the Wizard of Oz song @JeanneWhalen http://t.co/TQMnOVO0T7
- RT @MartinRossiter: Ding Dong is the free market in action. Surely Thatcher would have supported it, she certainly wouldn’t have called for state intervention.
What data did we use?
Approximately 300,000 tweets from the 3rd April 2013 to 13th April 2013, which mentioned the word “Thatcher” and were tagged by Twitter as being within 400 miles of the “UK Centre” of 54.6667N 2.7544E (Penrith Town Hall).
If time allows I may explore:
- Differences in the reaction of Labour and Conservative party followers
- We’ve done some work on profiling different communities tweeting on this subject by analysing their networks of friends and followers.
- Also some work on clustering tweets and identifying themes.
- More geo-graphical work would be interesting, such as contrasting responses in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the regions of England.
- More Wordles for Saturday and Sunday
Sources of bias:
As I don’t work for Twitter, I can’t verify that I’ve included every UK based tweet mentioning Thatcher. Here’s a couple of things which could affect the results:
- Only tweets to which Twitter ascribes a location are included. Initially we thought that this may bias the sample towards mobile devices, and those tweeters who have filled in the location field in their profile. However, some comparisons with other figures from Twitter seem to show similar numbers when no geographic constraint is applied. Presumably, Twitter also use IP addresses to identify location too. However, some UK tweets may be missing, and some non-UK tweets may be included.
- Also, as noted near the start of this post, some people have noted problems with Twitter’s “geocode” parameter in the past, which look to affect the results, biasing them towards the North-South “centre of the UK”, which is further North than many people may realise.
- There are about 5 short gaps (30 mins or so) in the collection of tweets used. These are unlikely to affect the results in any major way unless they coincide with a major time-limited media event, e.g. if they had co-incided with BBC Question Time.
More Twitter Visualisation
- R – Excellent language for data mining, analysis and visualisation. Been using it since 2003 and it keeps getting better. Also the twitteR package by Jeff Gentry
- Wordle – Producing the word clouds
- doPDF / novaPDF – Great virtual PDF printer, used to “print” the Wordle output to PDF files.
- XChange PDF Viewer – Very useful PDF viewer, allows annotations and easy to snapshot enlarged PDFs.
- Irfanview – Lightweight image viewer / editor with enough features for almost all my image editing
- Tony Hirst (@psychemedia) – The doyen of Twitter visualisation, whose tutorials have been very useful to me.