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Integrating sentiment and social structure to determine preference alignments: the Irish Marriage Referendum.

MACSI at the department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Limerick invites you to a seminar

Date:  Friday, February 14, 2020, Room A2-002 at 15.00

Speaker: Dr. David O’ Sullivan (Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Limerick)

Title: Integrating sentiment and social structure to determine preference alignments: the Irish Marriage Referendum.


We examine the relationship between social structure and sentiment through the analysis of a large collection of tweets about the Irish Marriage Referendum of 2015. We obtain the sentiment of every tweet with the hashtags #marref and #marriageref that was posted in the days leading to the referendum, and construct networks to aggregate sentiment and use it to study the interactions among users. Our analysis shows that the sentiment of outgoing mention tweets is correlated with the sentiment of incoming mentions, and there are significantly more connections between users with similar sentiment scores than among users with opposite scores in the mention and follower networks. We combine the community structure of the follower and mention networks with the activity level of the users and sentiment scores to find groups that support voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in the referendum. There were numerous conversations between users on opposing sides of the debate in the absence of follower connections, which suggests that there were efforts by some users to establish dialogue and debate across ideological divisions. Our analysis shows that social structure can be integrated successfully with sentiment to analyse and understand the disposition of social media users around controversial or polarizing issues. These results have potential applications in the integration of data and metadata to study opinion dynamics, public opinion modelling and polling.

Further Information: If you have any questions regarding this seminar, please direct them to Romina Gaburro (061 2131930, email  or Clifford Nolan (061 202766),

Supported by Science Foundation Ireland funding, MACSI - the Mathematics Applications Consortium for Science and Industry (, centred at the University of Limerick, is dedicated to the mathematical modelling and solution of problems which arise in science, engineering and industry in Ireland.