Take a look at our visual summary, which highlights the key findings behind the 2014 social media Budget responses…
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With commentary from Anita Greenhill, senior lecturer and social media expert, Manchester Business School
The 2014 Budget – it’s a day of important announcements, striking sentiments, grand gestures, and an awful lot of reactionary statements.
This year’s Budget announcements however have stimulated social media enthusiasts, largely via Twitter, to creatively voice their opinions and give us an instantaneous insight into their reactions to the events and their implications.
This year’s examples reveal some of the most positive and empowering elements associated with the connectivity and uptake of social media. Social media is fundamentally changing the way we communicate, collaborate, consume, and create. The Twittersphere is full of many no-holes-barred examples of reworked expressions, personal and satirical humour, and meme usage as a form of collective expression. These examples give a great insight into technology diffusion and the changing nature of communication that is brought about in a digitised age. What’s more, they provide a valuable insight into political and newsworthy events in a manner not seen previously.
Twitter, for example, is fun to use! Firstly, because it’s a fast moving platform where trends take off in a matter of minutes. Secondly, it’s an open largely democratic place where tweeters can communicate and collaborate with many others in real time. Thirdly, for those watching in, it’s a fantastic barometer for gauging what people think about contemporary issues and events – in this way it can be considered a powerful tool for shaping and revealing public perceptions.
Currently nearly one third (or 28%) of all UK internet users have an active Twitter account. That’s 200,000 registered Twitter accounts and 34,000 live Twitter accounts in the UK alone. Social media as an open platform is a fantastic place for creative expression in a transformative and interconnected manner. The outpour of creative expression about this year’s Budget clearly illustrates the creative potential, political or otherwise, that social media is enabling.
One of the most interesting things to come out of the Budget, and the most telling, are the thoughts of the public – and what better place to look than the world of social media? The place where people can truly vent and get their thoughts heard.
There aren’t many people who won’t feel the effects of the Budget announcements of 2014; whether you’re the CEO of a big business, a local shopkeeper, a stay-at-home parent, or a small child, you’re sure to be affected, even if you don’t realise it. The big question, however, is who has come out on top? What’s the upshot of the tax changes and revised spending policies? And what are people’s overall views of the government in power, George Osborne, and their reasoning behind the alterations?
So from the 32,095 tweets relating to the Budget, what can we make of the public reaction?
Which topics got the most negative reaction?
It’s fair to say that the new £1 coin didn’t receive the warmest welcome from the public, but it certainly got plenty of attention on social media. Many people were cynical about the Chancellor’s announcement, feeling as though the coin was a distraction from some of the real issues that the Budget has failed to address. Some used it as a way of criticising the big decision-makers:
Taxation was another topic that was subject to a lot of negative response. Of course, the reasons around this were wide-ranging, but a large amount of criticism came from the decision to raise the 40p income tax threshold from £41,450 to £41,865 in April, and another 1pc to £42,285. Many believe this to be in the favour of higher earners.
Decisions around energy were also subject to a large amount of criticism, with most people feeling that the Budget changes did little to address the climate change problem or the rising cost of energy bills.
Which topics got the most positive reaction?
Fuel, alcohol and tobacco
The Twitter reactions to subjects surrounding fuel, alcohol and tobacco were largely positive. This was largely due to the 1p decrease in beer costs per pint.
Nevertheless, many felt that the decision to cut the cost of bingo and beer was a patronising means of distraction from more pressing social issues. The fact that #torybingo was the second most popular hashtag relating to the Budget, is a good reflection of peoples’ distain surrounding the decision. A large number of parody tweets ensued, that mocked the decision and the sentiment behind it:
The decision for the welfare budget to be capped at £119bn for 2015-16, spurred a big reaction. Although there were many positive responses, there was a lot of disagreement around the issue.
Savings and pensions
According to Osborne, the Budget was designed to reward the ‘makers, doers and savers’, and the removal of tax restrictions on pensioners’ access to their pension pots reflected this promise. The reaction was mostly positive, with many feeling that they’d addressed issues that had been ignored by Labour.
However, some took a more cynical view of the decision, seeing it as a way of securing votes…
What does it mean for students?
With a large focus on pensioners in the Budget, it seems that some Tweeters believe the younger generation have been neglected completely…
But, is it all doom and gloom for today’s young academics?
Students require the opportunity and funding to have a successful academic career; they need the finances and facilities to study and the earning potential through employment opportunities when they leave education. So, how does this Budget affect them?
With an increased tax allowance of £10,500, graduates entering employment in low-income roles could pay around £100 less in tax per year.
Not only that, but there could be more opportunity for young people who are struggling to find employment in the current climate. Mr Osborne stated: “To make sure we give young people the skills they need to get good jobs in this modern world, we’ve doubled the number of apprenticeships and I will extend the grants for smaller businesses to support over 100,000 more. And we’ll now develop new degree-level apprenticeships too.”
There was also Twitter discussion around the increase in funding for science, technology and engineering, particularly through The Alan Turing Institute. The Institute will be will be the hub for research around large data collection, organisation and analysis, funded from a new £222 million Government science package. This also provides the opportunity for Manchester University and other institutes to bid to host the Alan Turing Institute, which could promote the UK to international students.
The full implications and impact of the 2014 Budget are yet to be revealed, but what we can say is that regardless of the impact on the Chancellor’s economy changes, this year’s Budget has already provoked a strong and opinionated public reaction and many are embracing social media as a way to express their opinions – large numbers of UK residents are using Twitter and other social media platforms to give a personalised, and creative insight into current social and political conditions. Social media is fundamentally changing the way we communicate, collaborate, consume, and create.