How Social Media is Voting on the #Plebiscite #SSM

The Same Sex Marriage Plebiscite is a hot topic in social media, as could be expected. How are the groups aligned and what can we learn so far?

Plebiscite in social is more negative

Looking at the “sentiment affinity”, which measures keywords which appear frequently in positive and negative contexts we can see a decidely negative affinity for the plebiscite. The percentages indicate how often “plebiscite” occurs in positive (or negative) set of mentions (in this case in Twitter).


Among negative groups of words “plebiscite” appears 55% of the time, and 49% among positive mentions. However  the number of negative mentions outnumber the positive mentions by nearly 2 to 1 in terms of numbers of mentions – 9,085 negative associations and 5,724 positive associations.

Who’s talking? It turns out many more men than women, as seen below in the gender distribution of people on Twitter talking about the plebiscite.


In fact men make up 62% of those tweeting about the topic. That’s possibly a little surprising although what it might mean is not clear. Perhaps it is a reflection of the number of active politicans and they tend to be more males than females.

The activity has taken place mostly in the last 30 days, reaching a peak 2 days ago as the reality of the Parliament enacting the Bill for the Same Sex Marriage plebiscite became imminent. On September 13 there were over 12,000 tweets on the topic.


KINSHIP’s social data analytics tools can produce an interesting analysis of Twitter users which groups them into Communities. The Communities are groups of users who are active in relation to a topic – in this case the plebiscite – and who are more like each other in the TwitterSphere than they are like others not in their Community.

In this case the analysis has identified 5 distinct communities.


Community 1 by inspection, appear to be political activists not aligned in general with the philosophies of the ruling Federal Government. For them, the plebiscite could be one of a string of issues on which they take umbrage.

Community 2 comprises many from the other side of politics to the Government i.e. the Opposition and the Greens, and also interestingly SBS, Radio National, ABC News (and Senator Wong, Bill Shorten, Julian Burnside and Will Anderson). This is an aligned anti-conservative grouping who, while often opposing the government, do not necessarily agree on all issues and are not necessarily “activists” per se as are those in Community 1.

Community 3 are around their political opposition and comprise ALP parliamentarians (Mike Kelly),  but not those in Community 2, and unions (the CMFEU) and declared ALP members and voters.

Community 4 are the News media, celebrities, and also includes the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. He has been associated with this community because of his strong links with the media and others in this grouping such as Christopher Pine, and the Liberal Party. So this community are the pro-plebiscite group.

Community 5 are a small but well connected group of left-leaning political activists, and have been algorithmically isloated as their own group – and not part of Community 1 – because of their strong links to Community 4 and the news media. In fact they are a bridge between Community 1 and Community 4.

What is most interesting is that there is no identified non-political non-News PRO PLEBISCITE grouping. Why not? Perhaps they are keeping their heads low and their powder dry until the legislation actually passes through Parliament and the plebiscite is sure to happen? What do you think?

—– Walter Adamson