What Social Says About The 2016 Budget Compared to 2015

The Australian Federal Government announced the 2016 / 2017 Budget two days ago on Tuesday May 3 on the cusp of a Federal Election. That being the case – the imminent election – the feedback in social media has more importance this year than last year. We researched the reaction and found some significant differences.

There is more reaction in social in 2016

There is more social activity in the couple of days since the 2016 budget announcement than in the whole week surrounding the 2015 budget. We measured the 2015 from 2 days before until 4 days after, and the 2016 budget from 2 days before until now which is 2 days after. Although a shorter period the 2016 budget already has 10% more Twitter activity than the 2015 budget. That may be a reflection of the topics, or the imminent election, or the more active social presence of the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – or all those factors combined.

Comparing Twitter Activity Budget 2015 2016

The leaders remained calm

We found that the antagonists themselves, being the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, were not especially active in social media during the 2016 nor the 2015 budget period, posting just 3 and 4 posts respectively for 2016.

During the period we analysed the 2016 budget The Real Donald Trump posted 47 tweets, by comparison.

And speaking of the contenders we were surprised to find that 44% of Bill Shorten’s 138,000 Twitter followers were also following Malcolm Turnbull – some 61,000 followers (this represents only 10% of Malcolm Turnbull’s followers). That means that Bill Shorten needs to understand a lot more about his followers in order to know which ones will willingly scale his message as true believers. Back to the budgets.

Bill Shorten Malcolm Turnbull Twitter Followers

Sentiment trended away from negativity in 2016

What did show up is that the sentiment surrounding the social media conversation had changed between 2015 and 2016. Sentiment analysis of online News showed that it was more positive in 2016.

In 2016 negativity dropped slightly but positivity jumped by 33% and hence the neutral sentiment shrank in 2016. News reporting moved towards a more favourable view of the 2016 budget than the previous 2015 budget.


Budget 2015 Sentiment  Budget 2016 Sentiment
Budget 2015 Budget 2016

On Twitter the trend was the same but less flattering in terms of positive sentiment. The positive sentiment increasing by 1 percentage point to 3% for the 2016 budget while negative sentiment dropped by 3 percentage points or down by 30%.

So it seems as if the news commentators took a real shine to the budget while the punters on Twitter were not so enthusiastic but became less sceptical.

Budget 2016 compare Twitter Sentiment 2015
Twitter Sentiment

Post-budget topics of conversation vastly differed

The biggest difference between the budgets was in the topics of conversation.

In 2015 our analysis hones in on one word – “rorting”.  The most commonly associated topics in social media that year were the Federal Treasurer and the subject of “rorting” paid parental leave. The Budget announced a “crackdown” on those planning to take paid parental leave both from their employer and from a long-standing Government scheme, and this became the hot post-budget topic. Move forward to 2016 and the topics are more eclectic.

The BuzzGraph below is a visual summary of buzz around the searched query by listing words that appear frequently along with the topic of the 2016 budget. Tax cuts and Medicare and “Malcolm” appear most frequently together in the social media conversations.

It also identifies “tax” as central to many other key issues such as the tax relief for tax bracket creep for those earning up to $80,000, the crackdown on multinational tax avoidance, the relationship between tax cuts and jobs and tax benefits for small business.

Buzzgraph Budget 2016 Australia

Tweet Budget 2015 Australian Family ViolenceIn 2015 another hot post-budget topic was family violence, but in 2016 this topic did not appear.

All-in-all we think that the Prime Minister would be pleased with the “messaging” from the 2016 budget which cascaded through social media. It’s certainly a better political result than the 2015 budget.

The online news media certainly gave 2016 a much more favourable reception and although the Twitterati remained less enthusiastic at least the trends towards greater positivity and less negativity were in the right directions.

The overall increase in activity in social media for the 2016 budget could also be construed as a good thing as it may portend a very active debate leading up to the election.


Walter Adamson
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