By Jinjing Li and Michael Jensen

The annual Budget Speech is one of the most significant events on the Australian political calendar. The Budget Speech and Budget Reply constitute the contrasting narratives from the government and opposition regarding where the country is, its challenges and opportunities, and how the major parties aim to confront those challenges. But how did the public react in social media? Did it match the sentiment of the Treasurer’s Budget Speech? This year, NATSEM/IGPA monitored the twitter discussions during the budget speech and it revealed some intriguing findings.

To begin with, we looked at the popularity of the word "budget" on Twitter. We monitored the number of tweets with the keyword. As shown below, there were more than 90,000 tweets posted contained the word "budget" between 5pm and midnight on 3 May 2016, and this rose to 600 tweets per minute when the Treasurer's speech started. While some of these tweets may not be entirely related to the Australian budget, given the global reach of Twitter, there was a spike in communications around the start of Treasurer Morrison’s speech which is unmistakable and largely driven by conversations about the Australian budget.

Source: Twitter.com, collected by NATSEM, data points are showing the number of tweets within each 10 minute interval.

To get a sense of the overall interest in the budget by social media users, we analysed Twitter’s stream of tweets produced in Australia. Although this data does not encompass all tweets produced in Australia, we have no indication that this data deviates from a relevant representative sample of tweets across Australia. More than 15% of the tweets produced in Australia on 3 May 2016 sent between 7 and 9 pm contain the word "budget". This shows a great interest from the general public in this major political event, and mirrors the trends we see in the global data collected from Twitter.

 

Source: Twitter.com, collected by NATSEM, data points are calculated based on the 60 minutes interval.

We also extracted the trending key words, hour by hour on tweets related to the budget. The phrase “tax cut” was a trending term one hour before the budget speech was delivered and remained so throughout the evening. This may be related to the widely reported information that the budget would contain a tax cut for both upper middle income earners and small businesses (a category which this budget also revises). As the specific nature of the cuts became clear, “cut to” also became a trending phrase at 8pm, persisting through the evening. We speculate these trending phrases could be linked to the themes repeated by politicians of fairness and equity in Australia.

  

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