The Labour party's election manifesto was the most shared election-related link on social media this week, according to the latest edition of the BuzzFeed News Social Barometer, breaking with the conventional belief that voters are not interested in the detail of party policy at election time.
What's more, people weren't sharing a brief summary of the party's headline policies. Instead, they were sharing a page that offers the full text of the 128-page manifesto, which sets out Jeremy Corbyn's election platform in full – not something usually associated with going viral.
The manifesto was shared more than 63,000 times in the days after it was officially released, making it the most shared election-related link on both Facebook and Twitter. It outperformed the next most popular article – an opinion piece by The Independent praising the manifesto – by almost 20,000 shares.
BuzzFeed News understands Labour has bought Facebook adverts to boost links to the manifesto.
The actual number of people reading the document is still relatively small in the scale of the entire UK population but it is highly likely that the Labour policy document is already one of the most read manifestos produced by any political party in recent general elections.
By comparison, the full manifestos from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, which were also released this week, have so far been shared around 17,000 times and 9,000 times respectively. However, they were both released later in the week, so had less time to be shared.
Not only was the Labour manifesto the most shared election link during the period between 11 May and 18 May, many of the other most popular articles also had a positive focus on Labour's policies, as the election campaign moves into a new stage with greater focus on issues.
The list of most shared articles include pieces praising the manifesto (such as Polly Toynbee's "this Labour manifesto is a cornucopia of delights") or reporting the opinion poll findings that many Labour's policies are popular with the public, such as The Independent's "British voters overwhelmingly back Labour’s manifesto policies, poll finds".
The Social Barometer tracks the most-viral election stories on Facebook, Twitter, and more. It also analyses what party, if any, they focus on, and whether the sentiment they express is positive, negative, or neutral toward that party. As in previous weeks, it shows that the most viral stories of the week are overwhelmingly either pro-Labour or anti-Conservative in sentiment, despite the parties performing very differently in the polls.
These are the top 20 most shared links of the past week:
The rise of an independent, hyperpartisan left-wing media producing incredibly viral anti-Tory stories has been one of the themes of the election. However, this marks the first time that a document produced by a political party has outperformed both the traditional and new media.
Labour supporters on social media have been increasingly keen to share articles focusing on Corbyn's policies rather than the day-to-day political debates that dominate the traditional news agenda. Many viral stories deal with the idea that Labour would be doing better in the polls if the media only reported on policies – the most shared piece in the opening period of the election was a blog post called "How many of Jeremy Corbyn's policies do you actually disagree with?".
As with last week, popular themes among the most viral stories include a possible surge in voter registration among young voters swinging the election towards Labour (which may be overstated), and Labour's continued improvement in the polls. The Conservatives' pledge to allow a vote on fox hunting, Corbyn's association with grime, and alleged anti-Labour BBC bias continued to perform well.
That many of Labour's policies are popular is undeniable, as a ComRes poll for The Mirror found this week. A plurality of voters back policies such as renationalising the railways and the energy grid, with several policies – such as raising income tax for people earning more than £80,000 and banning zero-hours contracts – even winning support from a majority of Conservative voters. The one policy area where Labour has a clear disadvantage is its pledge to scrap the Conservatives' ambition to reduce immigration to less than 100,000.
Unfortunately for Labour, the same poll found that the Tories led Labour by 51% to 31% when voters were asked which party had the "more realistic and well thought through policies".
Labour's steady climb in the polls is clear – but, until the past few days at least, it hadn't come at the expense of the Conservatives, who have also risen slightly since the start of the campaign. Instead, it seems more likely due to the continued decline of the Liberal Democrat and UKIP support, and to wavering voters making their minds up as election day nears. Combined support for the two main parties has hit 80% in several recent polls, a level it hasn't hit in over five years.
Rolling average of opinion polls since the election was announced.
We produced the Social Barometer using data from BuzzSumo, which tracks the most shared links across multiple social media platforms, between 11 May and 18 May. BuzzFeed News then classified the top 250 most shared stories according to which party they primarily focused on, and what the sentiment of the article was. You can read more about how we compiled it here.
Tom Phillips is the UK editorial director for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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