What are people saying about devolution in Birmingham?

In October Birmingham City Council held its Highbury 4 Democracy event on devolution

After the Scottish referendum and the promise to grant greater powers to the Parliament in Edinburgh, Birmingham – along with other cities in England – is exploring how best to devolve power to city level from Whitehall and to bring greater power to district and neighbourhood level as well. Birmingham’s Highbury 4 Democracy event explored these issues – and was webcast by Birmingham City Council, using Public-i.

Caption: Birmingham City Council’s tweet, announcing the event

While there was a lively debate at the event, there was also a large online audience – with 110 people watching and 152 users taking part on Twitter. We decided to learn a bit more about that online conversation, by looking a little closer at the tweets sent about the discussion.

What did we do?

Tweets using hashtag #brumgov14 by date

Caption: Tweets using hashtag #Brumgov14 by date

We found tweets using the hashtag #brumgov14, which was used for the debate. We then used a tool to analyse the text and make some broad assessments of what people were saying and the sentiments of their comments about devolution in Birmingham.

Who was talking?

Tweets by hour on event day

Caption: Tweets by hour on event day

We found that there was a large spike in activity on the day of the event, with more than 670 tweets on the day. This coincides with the sharing of the hashtag on the day of the event.  When the hashtag was first announced there was a large spike – see above – starting after 9am. Much of this was a mixture of people tweeting about the day and their initial thoughts about the subject of devolution.

Word cloud showing the idetnity of the tweeters using the hashtag

Caption: Word cloud showing the identity of the tweeters using the hashtag (press the image to see full size)

We saw that a small number of tweeters – in particular the City Council and Tony Smith, policy executive at Birmingham City Council, were responsible for a very large number of the tweets, including retweets. We also found that there was a mixture of personal twitter accounts and what looks like organisations. There were 152 unique twitter ids using the hashtag on the days we looked at.

What were they saying?

We found four main themes to the tweets that we looked at:

  • Tweets talking positively about change and the opportunities that the event could bring
  • Tweets from people talking about their own vision of what could or should be achieved.
  • Tweets that were negative about change and the event.
  • General tweets that talked about the event.
Tweets mentions by theme

Caption: Tweets mentions by theme

Here are some of the tweets to give you an impression of the first three of these themes…

Examples of tweets using #brumgov14

Caption: Examples of tweets using #brumgov14

What does all this mean?

The conversations about devolution in England have only just started and what has been said on Twitter provides just part of the story. From this analysis there appears to be a positive energy trying to drive the change through, however there was concern raised about residents not being involved in discussions and being able to have their say.

Interested in learning more about how Public-i can help you with social media analysis and research? Please contact us. Ask to speak to us and mention this blog post and we’ll do our best to help.



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