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Article • 10/06/2024

How Messaging is Shaping the UK Election: Insights from Signal AI’s Election Index

The United Kingdom is set for its first election in five years. The Conservative Party, which has ruled since 2010, faces a formidable challenge in retaining power. Running behind in the polls, years of problems and controversies have made the Conservatives a prime target for critics.

In this article, we used the live U.K. Elections tracker data to pull the most interesting findings, distilling the entire media conversation into insights.

Here’s what our data says:

  • 1. Conservatives grab the lion’s share of attention: Despite the Labour Party leading in the polls, the Conservatives attract the most attention. Their 46% share of voice is greater than the combined total of the next three parties.
  • 2. Conservatives banking on economy messaging: Although they are betting on their success in slowing down inflation, the Economy is only the second most prevalent topic in election discussions.
  • 3. Security issues are a key topic that spans party lines: Foreign policy is mentioned in more than 60% of news coverage about Rishi Sunak and his rival, Keir Starmer.

The Labour Party is ahead in the polls, but the Conservatives earn the most attention

Rishi Sunak has just gambled on a snap summer general election for July 4, catching Westminster off guard. This bold move sets the stage for a fierce contest between Sunak’s ruling Conservatives and the Labour Party led by Keir Starmer, the former director of public prosecutions in England and leader of the Labour Party since 2020. 

However, other parties, many with significant regional backing, may play a pivotal role in forging a coalition government if no single party secures an outright majority. Among them are the Scottish National Party, advocating for Scottish independence, the Liberal Democrats, and the Democratic Unionist Party, striving to preserve ties between Britain and Northern Ireland. 

These three parties currently rank among the largest in Parliament, trailing behind the Conservatives and Labour. The newly formed Reform Party, comprising Tory dissenters and accounting for 3% of the election conversation, could draw votes away from the Conservatives, facing an uphill battle in the polls.

The Conservatives bet on their economic achievements to win, but Security is the key driver of discussions around the election

Britain’s economy has grappled with challenges such as high inflation and sluggish growth, exacerbating financial strain for many. While the Conservatives achieved their target of halving inflation, which peaked at 11.1% in October 2022, the economy entered a technical recession in the latter half of 2023, prompting scrutiny of the government’s economic strategies.

The recent decrease in inflation to 2.3% in April likely influenced the decision to call a snap election. However, our data shows that other discussion topics were more dominant than the economy.

Security issues are mentioned in over half of the coverage for the three most prominent parties in election discussions

The key issue on the ballot within security discussions is foreign policy, while the economy is mentioned in at most one-third of these discussions. While both parties agree on supporting Ukraine, the Tories have committed to spending 2.5% of GDP on defense by the decade’s end. 

The Labour Party, on the other hand, has not specified a date but aims to do so “as soon as resources allow.”  Additionally, Labour has shifted towards endorsing a cease-fire in the Israel-Gaza conflict and asserted that the UK has a “legal obligation” to support the International Criminal Court’s decision to seek an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Much like in the US, foreign policy is central to security-related discussions in the UK and spans party lines, dominating over 60% of the discussions involving Sunak and Starmer.

Security issues drive 61% of discussions for incumbent Rishi Sunak and his rival Keir Starmer. However, Sunak’s stance on security issues has been far more well-received than Starmer’s. 

When comparing sentiment for both candidates, neither was particularly well-received. However, Sunak fares better, receiving approximately 28% positive coverage on foreign policy (26% negative), while Starmer encounters 41% negative coverage on the same topic (33% positive).

The media is more polarized on Starmer than on Sunak, who leads in positive sentiment regarding both security issues and the economy

This, coupled with the neutral reception of Starmer’s stance on national security—the second-largest topic within security discussions—contrasted with the significant positive coverage of Sunak’s interventions on this issue, open a window of opportunity for  Conservatives to narrow Labour’s lead in the polls.

What Now?

Elections hinge on narrative to sway opinion, and with little time left until the UK’s July 4th election, staying on top of public sentiment and trending topics is more urgent than ever. The Conservative Party, led by Rishi Sunak, and the Labour Party, led by Keir Starmer, are vying for dominance in a contest where security issues and foreign policy take center stage. With the Conservatives capturing more media attention despite trailing in the polls, staying informed on shifting public sentiment and trending topics can support communications strategy.

Signal AI’s UK election tracker is a powerful example of how you can harness the power of data-driven insights and media monitoring to navigate the complexities of the election landscape. Understanding these dynamics for PR and communications campaigns is crucial for success – because without data, it’s just a guessing game.

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