Twitter says YES to #MarRef: How Same-sex marriage referendum played on Twitter

On Friday May 22nd the country voted for the first ever same-sex marriage referendum. Voters were asked whether the Constitution should be changed so as to extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.

In the build up to the same-sex marriage referendum Twitter was one of the platforms used for exchanging ideas. We looked into Twitter conversations and tracked the hashtags which were being used during the campaigning. We have collected over half a million tweets from 28th April 2015 to 23rd May 2015. For this article we have focused on one week of the referendum and collected just under 200,000 tweets from Monday 18th May to Saturday 23rd May, 11:00 a.m. Our collection has been for the following hashtags: marref, (#voteyes and #marref), (#voteno and #marref) and #yesequality. In the case of #voteyes and #voteno, we carefully paired them with #marref to make sure we are not collecting noise tweets for any other campaigns which may be happening around the globe, with yes and no votes.

Out of the 197,186 in this period only 9,171 have #voteno and 93,747 have #voteyes or #yesequality hashtags in them. This makes it 91% Yes and 9% No hashtagged tweets out of total #voteno, #voteyes and #yesequality in Twitter conversations.

MarRef Yes No

A total number of 54,051 users have been involved in the conversation, who have exchanged 165,162 tweets. These users create 5 main clusters on users, and a number of users who would be categorised as others, who are not specifically engaged with any of the clusters.

Out of these 5 clusters 2 have a very clear and strong centre point. @YesEquality2015 is the centre of cluster one, and also the central user in the whole dataset. It has in total 4,202 tweet exchanges, with 52 outgoing and 4,150 incoming, including retweet or mention tweets.  Cluster 2 hasn’t got a clear centre as for cluster 1, but @ireland is the largest node in this cluster. It has 1,084 toal interaction, with 88 outgoing and 996 incoming, including retweet or mention tweet. The largest node in Cluster 3 is @Colmogorman with total 2,184 interactions, 219 outgoing and 1,965 incoming.

The other two clusters do not have a very distinct centre user and the conversations are more spread between various users.



We also looked into the most frequent words used in the tweets and how they evolved in time. Not surprisingly “#marref” was the most frequent word used in the tweets. This was followed by “vote”, “#yesequality” and “#voteyes”, throughout the week. On the 19th of May there was a surge of tweets with hashtag #rtept, who were mainly discussing the RTE Prime Time Debate on the same-sex marriage referendum. Towards the end of the week Twitter users started using other words more and #marref less. “Tomorrow” was a word that kept appearing in tweets on Thursday 21st, and ”today” was a leading word on Friday 22nd. Another important hashtag that started showing up on Thursday was “#hometovote”,  a hashtag used by Irish outside Ireland, who were traveling home to Ireland to vote. Their tweets and pictures became very sensational on Thursday night.  “Voted” was a word which was largely used on the day of the “#MarRef” was again the most widely used word in our dataset on Saturday 23rd, while the nation is awaiting the final results.


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