Emotions Soar at the UK Election Debate

The UK election debate took place on BBC on Wednesday evening (31st May). Prime Minister Theresa May was noticeably absent and was quoted as saying that her reason for skipping the event was that she would rather spend her time “taking questions and meeting people” on the campaign trail instead of “squabbling” with other politicians.

We analysed over 8,000 mentions of the debate to uncover the key emotions and voter insights behind the heated debate. Our world leading emotion and customer experience analysis tool Emotics can analyse any text to reveal key decision ready insights into how a brand or person is perceived and what themes are leading to key emotions.

Participants of the debate included Home Secretary Amber Rudd who stepped in for the Conservatives in place of Theresa May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, SNP’s Deputy Leader Angus Robertson, UKIP’s Paul Nuttall, The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas and Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood.

The Adorescore is a performance indicator of emotional content measured between -100 to 100, in which the highest the score the more positive the content. The Adorescore for mentions of the trending hashtag #BBCdebate was 34, evoking high levels of interest and apprehension.




Mentions of each party’s representative on Twitter were analysed to reveal who had the most emotional impact on viewers. The results show that Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn evoked the highest levels of positivity and positive emotions following the debate, with Green’s Caroline Lucas close behind. The Conservative’s Amber Rudd and the notably missing Theresa May evoked the most negative emotions following the debate.

The key themes highlighted during the debate and from the data are:

1. Where’s Theresa?

Theresa May made the decision to sit the debate out and focus her energies on “meeting people” on the campaign trail. The other representatives didn’t let the public forget her absence.

Even the hashtag #WheresTheresa may was trending on Twitter.

Lib Dem’s Tim Farron went after the PM stating, ““Where do you think Theresa May is tonight? Take a look out your window. She might be out there sizing up your house to pay for your social care.” and telling viewers to switch over to Bake Off as even the PM “couldn’t be bothered” to turn up.

Theresa May’s Adorescore was significantly lower that the other party leaders at -21, with sadness being the prevailing emotion.

Tim Farron gained an Adorescore of 36 with trust being the dominating emotion. Many Twitter users claimed that Tim Farron won the debate with his hard-hitting sound bites.

2. Immigration

Immigration was a hot topic, sparking heated debate, an inevitable question following Brexit.

Tim Farron took the spotlight again, citing a doctor who suffered racial abuse hours after helping victims of the Manchester attack. He claimed this is an example of what happens when other parties demonise immigrants. Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas accused UKIP of “hate-filled rhetoric” towards immigrants.

UKIP leader Paul Nuttall denied “demonising” immigrants but argued that “we have to get the population under control.”

Paul Nuttall got an Adorescore of 21 with the highlighted emotion being apprehension but also gained high levels of interest. He was not happy about the reception from the audience, which he claimed was rigged against him from the start.


3. Taxes

The subject of taxes and social care was also prominent in the debate. Conservative Amber Rudd criticised Jeremy Corbyn for relying on a “magic money tree” when he attacked the Tory decision to cut benefits.

Corbyn hit back with an argument on poverty stating, “Have you been to a food bank? Have you seen people around our stations? Have you seen the levels of poverty that exist because of your government’s conscious decisions on benefits?’’

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn evoked the most positive emotions throughout the debate with an Adorescore of 49. The emotion with the highest intensity is trust, with Twitter users praising Corbyn’s performance during the debate.


Following the debate the polls are still placing the Conservatives in the lead for next week’s election. Twitter users, who some may argue are more left-leaning, make it clear that the more liberal parties performed the best at the debate and garnered the most positive response. Theresa May’s absence seemed to direct high levels of negative emotions such as sadness to the Conservative party mentions. Would the results have been much different if the PM was to attend?

We will find out the outcome once voters hit the polls on June 8th.

At Adoreboard, we specialise in measuring emotions and analysing customer or brand experience. To find out how our software can help you and your brand stand out from the crowd click here.


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