EU researchers saw Brexit coming

EU researchers saw Brexit coming
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Following the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union on 23 June 2016, the EU-funded SENSEI project has revealed that it accurately predicted the result of the referendum by analysing 6 million social media conversations in the weeks preceding the vote.

The SENSEI aims to make sense of the millions of blog posts and conversations that take place every day. To do this, the overall goals of the project have been twofold: Firstly, project partners have developed sophisticated summarisation and analytics technology to help users make sense of human interaction from diverse media channels. Secondly, they have designed and evaluated the SENSEI summarisation technology in real-world environments, with the aim to improve task performance and the productivity and efficiency of end-users, including, for example, data and media analysts, journalists and editors.

However, the project does not just rely on technology – human intervention is also a crucial element in how the project has been analysing social media conversations, with an emphasis by the project on using a combination of 'man and machine' to predict the outcome of major votes and elections. This has included the inconclusive December 2015 Spanish general election and the Brexit referendum.

Predicting Brexit

'Over the course of this campaign, the SENSEI project's unique combination of humans and machine reading algorithms has listened to more than 6 million social media conversations relating to the Brexit vote to identify and predict voting sentiment,' commented Prof. Giuseppe Riccardi, SENSEI project coordinator. 'We are delighted that, following our equally accurate prediction of the Spanish general election, we have once again predicted the outcome of a major political event with very high accuracy. It appears that the momentum on UK social media started to change on 21 June [two days before the referendum vote] and we watched it move.'

Whilst traditional pollsters and bookmakers were predicting a very narrow win for the Remain campaign right up until the evening of 23 June, the online conversations monitored by the SENSEI project team began to tell a different story. Earlier during the day of 23 June as polling stations opened across the country, social media chatter in the UK was 49.63 % in favour of Leave and 50.37 % in favour of Remain and it was too close to call.

But by late afternoon, social media chatter had changed as more and more undecided voters took their decision and there was a dramatic swing to Leave. The SENSEI system predicted a final vote breakdown of 48 % Remain and 52 % Leave, which was precisely the final result of the referendum that was announced in the early morning hours of 24 June. Social media, in essence, had gotten it right.

Dr. Hugo Zaragoza, a member of the SENSEI project team and an expert in opinion analytics commented: 'Once again, our data told a very different story to the pollsters and we were proved to be more accurate. This is a great result for the project. The ability to listen to millions of pieces of conversations and then analysing them for sentiment, using a combination of humans and machines, has proved once again to be more successful than traditional polling methods... at times, the social media chatter was intense and passionate. Since we started this project, we have listened to and analysed 300 000 social media conversations on Brexit every day and we're delighted to have called the result accurately.'

Commercial opportunities

By highlighting how using a powerful combination of technology-driven analytics, combined with a unique qualitative approach using human intervention can fundamentally change the way social media chatter is understood and how it can be applied commercially, the SENSEI project is providing a highly valuable tool to help commentators to understand what is being said.

'This is a really powerful tool for politics and business after the disastrous set of predictions from the main players,' said Dr Zaragoza. 'We have demonstrated how accurate our technique is.'

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User comments

Jul 11, 2016
yeah, wonderful.

I'm sure big brother would love these capabilities.

Privacy is dead.

Jul 11, 2016
Privacy has been dead for a while. Its ghost, however, is still howling and rattling chains at all hours.

Jul 11, 2016
This is nothing. I just predicted that SENSEI would predict the Brexit result.

Jul 11, 2016
Did they measurement the degree to which misinformation was believed by the naive and ignorant?

For instance many believed that exiting the EU would stem the flow of refugees, but the UK's refugee agreements are with the UN, not the EU. Leaving the EU will make no difference whatsoever.

Another bit of silliness is the idea that the UK could adopt and Australian-like immigration policy. There was never any restriction on the UK adopting that police for immigration from countries outside the EU, and Australia has an EU-like alliance with New Zealand with visa free travel and resettlement is allowed, much like the agreement that the UK had with the EU.

And the EU immigrants would be force to go home? The morning after the Brexit vote Boris Johnson told the media that nobody currently living in the UK would be asked to leave, that their rights would be respected.

The promise to spend £350m a week on the NHS instead of the EU was withdrawn within an hour of the referendum.

Jul 11, 2016
LOL the only ppl who give a monkey's about the £350m are the whiney fascist remainers.

We voted for the right to keep being able to vote, and for that vote to mean something.

The endurance of our democracy and sovereignity is a black & white issue.

You're welcome, BTW.

Nowt stopping you emigrating if there's somewhere else you'd rather be..

Jul 12, 2016
We voted for the right to keep being able to vote

Then why didn't you say so, and instead went on campaigning about NHS and immigrants?

History revisionism is a bit futile when the events you're talking about are mere months old. That's Putin level of spin right there.

Jul 12, 2016
The Leave camp's rhetoric has been based on lies upon lies all along, like the 2011 case where they sent the European Food Safety Administration a demand for a statement over a made up advertising phrase claiming that drinking bottled water reduces the risk of dehydration.

When the EU came back with an answer saying it's a false claim, they ran big news headlines about how the EU wastes money in bureaucracy to come up with ridiculous statements that drinking water doesn't prevent dehydration - that they themselves demanded and knew what the answer was going to be.

Here's the rub: drinking water does not reduce the -risk- of dehydration because the risk has nothing to do with whether you drink water. It was a carefully worded trick question that the bureau had to process because a request was made.

Or the "bent banana law" that turned out to be nothing but a common classification standard and not a ban on curved bananas, and many others that the leavers simpy lied about

Jul 12, 2016
Most of the rabble about the EU taking away rights has been deliberate misconstructs of the actual regulations made to raise anger and public support for populists such as UKIP and Farange/Johnson, or MPs driving home unpopular policies and blaming it on the EU saying, "They said so, we have to." when there were no such demands.

So the irony is, this newly gained "self determination" is nothing different: it's the same elite in power - same people to count the votes - just without any external restraints on their arbitrariness.

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