Poli-Yik Poli-Yak: Polling the Bath constituency using Yik Yak

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Polling is a difficult art. It takes a lot of people, a lot of calculations and a lot of experience to get it right. Take the 1992 election, all the polls indicated a Labour victory but on the day people couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Neil Kinnock. Many surely had the intention to vote Labour, but once they stepped into the booth the media’s attacks on Kinnock popped into their head and their inner Tory took over. Other were probably planning on voting Tory all along, but said they would vote Labour because they didn’t want people to know they were blue at heart.

This raises one of the foremost problems of polling, creating an environment in which people are unafraid to give true answers. In true polling this often requires complex questionnaires designed to highlight inconsistencies and entice your inner Tory out. Here at bathimpact we do not have the resources nor the ability to do this, so we’ve turned to YikYak.

Anti UKIP

For those who are unaware, Yik Yak is effectively an anonymous Twitter that only shows posts from near your location. It also has an up-vote and down-vote system, and if a Yak gets to -5 it’s removed. This makes it a useful platform to measure political sentiment as it is easily quantifiable and people are unafraid of making controversial opinions known. The clear focus of Yik Yak is humour, so rather than simply writing ‘Up-vote for X Party’, an opinionated statement drawn from popular media opinions was made for and against each party to give off the appearance of a natural post rather than a transparent attempt to gauge opinion. Obviously this led to some issues in accuracy of some of the statements were more topical and/or humorous than others, meaning the response was more to do with the phrasing of the statement rather than content.

We have tried to account for this in the results, but Lord Ashcroft we are not, and this was mostly a bit of fun.

The Overall Results

TableAs you can see from the table, the majority of statements were voted off, indicating a certain amount of cynicism and hostility towards the political parties. However, many of these were quite controversial, with upwards of 15 votes being cast and net scores remaining at +/- 1, indicating that opinion wasn’t completely against the parties. Getting to -5 also only takes five people, which could be the first five people who happen to see it, so it’s best to consider the speed at which a Yak was voted off as an indication of its unpopularity rather than the fact of it solely being voted off.

ParticipationThe argument against cynicism can also be seen in the most popular Yak advocated general participation, and that heated debates often took place in the replies section. The anti-participation Yak was also voted off in less than five minutes.

People were far more likely to up-vote statements against political parties however, so perhaps the cynicism is against the politicians themselves rather than the political process itself. It’s also true that anyone who isn’t for party X will up-vote a statement against party Y, but only someone who is for party Y will up-vote a statement for party Y and will have to contend with all other parties down-voting, this is seen in the fact every pro-Party statement was voted off. What is interesting here is that whilst most anti-Party statements were voted up, the anti-Conservative and anti-Labour statements were voted off, whilst the two parties on the furthest ends of the spectrum, The Greens and UKIP, were also clearly the most unpopular overall, indicating a support for centralised parties amongst the Bath Yik Yak community.

The Losers: The Greens and UKIP

Anti-GreensThe anti-Green party Yak proved to be the most popular party related Yak of the experiment at +47, whilst the pro-UKIP Yak was the fastest to be voted off at 1m8s, almost twice as fast as the next quickest. It wasn’t all terrible for UKIP however, the anti-UKIP Yak only ended on +8 and after 15 votes was only on a net score of +2, indicating there was a significant amount of sympathy towards Farage and UKIP.

This was not part of the experiment and was posted when parties were canvassing on campus.

This was not part of the experiment and was posted when parties were canvassing on campus.

The Greens and UKIP also got a significant amount of flak when the political parties were canvassing campus on the 30th April, and attempts to defend them, for example pro-Green replies to the anti-Green yak were often voted off.

 

The Winners: The Conservatives

Anti-ToryThe fact every Yak about the Conservatives was voted off and for them to still be the clear winners is probably both a statement about the feelings towards the parties in general than and against this polling method. However the Yaks against the party and David Cameron were voted off in 2m20s and 2m45s respectively, collectively far quicker than the anti-Labour statements, whilst as previously states anti-statements against all other parties were all on average up-voted.

tory commentPro-Tory Yaks were also prominent in the reply section of many of the other Yaks, and after the anti-Tory Yak was voted off a smug response was posted immediately.

The Liberal Democrats

anti-Lib DemThe Liberal democrats didn’t come across too well in this survey, their anti-Yak received +57 votes (this was halved in the final results as the pigeon line was felt to be too humorous compared to the other statements, and that at least half the votes were for that, as indicated by pigeon references in the replies), however they were also defended in the comments and the pro-Lib Dem for statement took the longest out of the positive statements to be voted off and took quite a fight as after over 15 votes it was only on -3. Consequently the Lib Dems are most likely the runners up, along with Labour.

Labour

anti-labour

The main positive for Labour is that the Yak against them was voted off, however it took over 15 minutes for this to happen, far longer than the anti-Tory Yak, and it took a fight to get rid of it, as after over 15 total votes the overall score was only -1. The anti-Miliband Yak was also voted off fairly quickly at 2m5s. However, the pro-Labour Yaks were some of the fastest to be voted off, with the pro-Party Yak disappearing at 1m55s and the pro-Miliband at 1m35s. So whilst people may not be as anti-Labour as they are other parties, they’re also not for them.

The Nationalists

snp commentWith the rise of the SNP and their inclusion, along with Plaid Cymru, in the TV debates we decided to see how Bath felt about their development. In general there was a degree of apathy, with few comments on their pro-Yak which took 11m59s to be voted off, and their anti-Yak only reaching +11. There was a strong desire for the SNP not to be in power with Labour however and a perceived unfairness at a party who wants independence being able to influence English laws.


Conclusions

So, other than that Yik Yak is a far from ideal polling method, the main finding of this experiment is that the Conservatives are the most popular party out of the primarily student based Yik Yak community in Bath. The Torys were the most often defended and least attacked out of all the parties, and their supporters were able to outnumber those of the other parties quickly during arguments. This is obviously good news for Ben Howlett and might indicate that he has a good proportion of the student vote, but again (and we can’t stress this enough), this is a Yik Yak poll.

So Ben, if you read this, congratulations on winning Yik Yak, but it wouldn’t be a great idea to pull an Al Gore off the back of this.

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About Author

Thomas Gane is the former Online Editor (2014-15) and bite Editor (2012-13) at bathimpact. He writes about popular culture, music, the University of Bath and both local and national politics.

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