The Aftermath of #Prop1: What We Can Learn from the Twitter Data

After Austin’s Proposition 1 was defeated in a close 56% to 44% vote in early May, showing that voters wanted to keep the city’s required fingerprint background checks, we were curious to see how people were discussing the results on social media. People for and against the proposition were active on Twitter leading up to the vote in an effort to educate voters on the situation. But how were Twitter users reacting after such a close vote? What clues could we find to help predict what was next for ridesharing in Austin? To find out we took a sample of approximately 3,000 tweets that included #Prop1 over the span of 10 days following the vote and searched for trends in the data.

Leading up to the vote (and after) a common theme was that the results in Austin would set a national precedent for cities to require fingerprinting. Although this was a vote over a local issue, it was covered by national media outlets including USA Today, Forbes, Huffington Post, The New York Times, and many more. #Prop1 tweets poured in from around the country, as shown in the map below.

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Next we wanted to see who the most active Twitter users were. There were victory tweets from the side against the proposition, along with neutral tweets on results, but not surprisingly the people tweeting the most frequently were those who were unhappy with the outcome. This group tweeted out of frustration and as a way to organize and spread information, hoping to eventually change the public opinion.

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The content of our sample of tweets ranged from frustration with alternative ridesharing apps, to anger toward the city council, to disgust with Uber’s campaign spending, to predicting what would happen next. Many of these predictions assumed the worst. Concerns included failing to attract the tech industry, diminished bar attendance, drivers without jobs, an increase in drunk drivers, and a city scrambling to find rides. Another topic we repeatedly saw was the idea that it was only a matter of time before the legislature took up the issue. For now, most of these predictions are speculation. We will have to wait longer to see data on the long-term effects of the city.

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Sen. Donna Campbel (SD 25) and Joshua Baer (Founder of Capital Factory)

The legislature theme was echoed when we aggregated the Twitter bios of the users into a word cloud (see below). Immediately we noticed a strong political theme with keywords such as policy, politics, conservative, TxLege, libertarian, etc.

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*Note: Some common words have been removed to better display results.

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The prominence of political keywords ties in with what many traditional news stories have been reporting. Several lawmakers have promised to address the issue with legislation designed to create a statewide policy in the 2017 legislative session (see above). Until we kick off the next session in January it looks like we will just have to buckle up and wait.

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