‘Deeply frustrated’: Australians’ online activity shows voter sentiment is verging on apathy

Corruption, climate and cost of living are at the front of voters’ minds as we head towards election day.

That’s according to an analysis of online activity and social media chatter by data analyst Elisa Choy.

“The general mood of Australia right now is that we’re just not happy people,” she said.

“But what we’re missing is hope.”

Unlike polls, which simply ask a sample of the population about a given issue, Ms Choy has scraped and analysed petabytes of publicly available online data.

“We’re reading and analysing all the content that people have been engaging with, and measuring the sentiment in that content,” said Ms Choy, who founded Maven Data.

“And we’re also observing people’s behaviour online, so when you’re commenting or sharing, that also comes into the mix.”

Elisa Choy
Elisa Choy has analysed voter sentiment by looking at petabytes of publicly available online data.

This information was then analysed via machine learning to pull out key trends and assess public sentiment towards specific issues and candidates.

“We say, ‘how do people feel about it’ and measure the intensity, we measure the description of the emotion, we look at a whole raft of things,” Ms Choy said.

“It’s more complex than social media listening.”

It’s also the same method Ms Choy used to accurately predict the outcome of the last US presidential election, as well as the past three seasons of The Voice.

The overwhelming sentiment, she found, is that Australians are “deeply frustrated” about the current state of the campaign, and politics in general.

People are sick of political point-scoring

Australian voters have been complaining online in droves about nastiness on the campaign trail, and political point-scoring taking precedence over substance.

“It’s still very clear that right now, sentiment towards the two major parties is that people don’t necessarily love them,” Ms Choy said.

“There’s no clear winner. There’s no clear favourite, but there’s probably a little bit more negativity towards the Liberal campaign because of the Scott Morrison factor, because he’s attracted a lot of deep negative sentiment on a number of issues.”

The two main issues on many voters’ lips are climate action and the prospect of a federal ICAC, according to online activity.

“If you wonder why the independents have gained ground, it’s because they speak to those two things,” Ms Choy said.

Other top issues include integrity, renewable energy and EVs, interest rates, unemployment, property value and the Prime Minister’s track record with women.

Cost of living was previously the top issue voters engaged with online – however, it’s since fallen to the sixth place.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has fallen off the radar entirely for many voters now that Australia has largely opened back up.

Many voters expressed frustration online during the second leader's debate.
Many voters expressed frustration online during the second leaders’ debate. Photo: Getty

Ms Choy said people are fed up with nastiness, gotchas and political potshots and crave a bold vision for the future.

Sunday’s leaders’ debate generated a noticeable but negative impact online.

For example, Australians posted more than 38,000 tweets during the program, according to data provided by Twitter to The New Daily.

One of the most-tweeted topics related to a rumour about cashless debit cards for pensioners.

The hashtags #FederalICAC, #SolomonIslands and #AgedCareRC were also extremely popular.

“What we’re seeing is that they’re not sticking to the issues, and just having yelling matches at each other, talking over each other. It’s not statesmanlike,” Ms Choy said.

“People just want to talk about the issues and not witness two people arguing.”

The Kooyong debate between Josh Frydenberg and Dr Monique Ryan elicited a similar response online.

Meanwhile, the attacks on trans women in sports spearheaded by Liberal candidate Katherine Deves barely made an impact in the online discourse of Australian voters.

Ms Choy added: “It’s a cheap potshot, again. There’s less than 0.0001 per cent of people who are actually transgender. Why pick on those people?”

It’s neck and neck

Ms Choy said there’s no clear winner based on Australian voters’ online activity.

She said Labor and the Liberals are “neck and neck” because neither party offers a hopeful vision for the country and voters are simply tuning out.

“Because of this bobble-head issue we’re not seeing a clear winner, but you’ve got the rise of the teal independents and you’ve also got the United Australia Party having an influence at the end of the game,” Ms Choy said.

The current sentiment points towards a Labor minority government with plenty of independents in the mix – something Ms Choy said should be a wake-up call to both major parties as we head into the final week of the campaign.