Here at Eyesover, we look at social media as a 24/7 focus group. You can listen in on thousands of people discussing a particular issue and with the right software, you can determine not just how often people are talking about an issue, but also how they feel about a particular stance on that issue.
Obviously, the Canadian Federal Election provides us an opportunity to use our system to gauge public sentiment towards a multitude of issues in relation to each leader or political party.
When we look at specific topics that are being discussed online over the last week, one topic that has been garnering much attention is the niqab. So we took a deeper look into the data and found some interesting results. For this analysis, we looked at over 300,000 online comments from the period of September 23 to October 1 that mentioned either the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party or New Democratic Party or their respective leaders. Out of those comments, approximately 25,278 also mentioned specific topics that we have identified as important issues in the election, of which 5341 were related to the niqab - a significant percentage (21%) to say the least
The first thing that is evident is that when people discussed the niqab online over this time period, it is primarily in relation to either the Conservatives or the NDP. Comments being made online are generally not including the Liberals in the discussion. The data also shows that the niqab issue only gained traction on September 25, the night of the French language debate, and that it has continued to be a much discussed topic since that date.
We also found that comments discussing both the niqab and Stephen Harper accounted for the most online comments we analyzed in every province with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador. For Thomas Mulcair, the niqab is one of the top two topics of comments in which he is also mentioned in all provinces with the exception of Alberta (it is ranked 3rd), and PEI. Of particular interest is the fact that the niqab was the most discussed topic in relation to all three of the parties/party leaders we analyzed in Quebec.
So how are people feeling about the issue? In both the cases of Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair, their most recent sentiment scores are below 50 indicating the discussions about each leader pertaining to the niqab are negative. It is always interesting to look at the trends however, and we see the trend for Mulcair is significantly more negative than is Harper’s.
How this issue will impact voting preference remains to be seen, but our analysis indicates that the niqab has become a hot issue in the election. Based on the comments discussing the NDP, in relation to that topic, it has not been a favourable turn of events for that particular party.