How The Brexit Party won the UK’s online battle for the European elections
The 2019 EU elections were an unofficial referendum on the state of British politics. They saw the collapse of the established parties, who alienated both Leave and Remain voters, the birth of new groups The Brexit Party and Change UK, who advocated for dramatic changes to politics in the UK, and the resurgence of the secondary Lib Dem and Green parties, who strongly advocated to remain in the EU.
We analysed the performance of the UK’s political parties during the election campaign and, in doing so, uncovered greater detail about The Brexit Party’s social media strategy than has been previously reported anywhere else.
We examined The Brexit Party’s performance on Facebook and Twitter, comparing it to other parties; examined Nigel Farage’s resonance on social media, comparing him to other party leaders; reviewed The Brexit Party’s top-performing content; categorised more than 200 Facebook posts by The Brexit Party, comparing them to Change UK’s posts at the same time; and categorised 113 Facebook Ads by The Brexit Party.
We uncovered the following key findings:
- The Brexit Party performed better than any other political party: despite only producing 13% of all posts by political parties on Facebook and Twitter, they accounted for 51% of all shares.
- Their campaign was overwhelmingly negative. We were able to locate just 4 Facebook posts framing Brexit as an opportunity; posts describing Britain as humiliated or criticising the establishment were far more common.
- We were unable to locate any posts about specific policy issues, such as climate change, the environment, immigration, or refugees. Labour posted about climate change at least 10 times and Conservatives posted about climate change at least 5 times during the same period.
- Labour was the main target of attacks by The Brexit Party. 10% of all Facebook posts that we analysed and 39% of all Facebook Ads were anti-Labour. Lord Adonis was singled out more than any other politician.
- Their ad campaign heavily prioritised older voted. 55-64-year-olds were included in targeting for 98.2% of Facebook Ads, whereas 18-24-year-olds were included injust 16.8% of ads. Ads promoting campaign rallies were almost exclusively promoted to people over the age of 35.
- Scotland and Northern Ireland were rarely targeted by Facebook Ads by The Brexit Party
- Overall, The Brexit Party ran the most coherent, on message campaign out of any other political party.
To learn more about The Brexit Party’s performance on social media in the European election, as well as the other major UK political parties, read our report here:
Our report on The Brexit Party’s social media strategy during the European elections campaign was first reported on in The Observer.