Towards Election Forecasting Using Sentiment Analysis: The Zambia General Elections 2021
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Forecasting of election results is one of the key activities prior to elections. In Zambia, like many other countries, opinion polls have been used to predict the outcome of elections since 1999. During the run up to the 2021 general elections, two opinion polls were conducted. One poll suggested that HH would emerge victorious whilst the other predicted that ECL would emerge victorious. Actual results announced on the 16th of August 2021 by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) had HH obtaining 59.02% of the votes. The variance in the two opinion polls leaves room for alternative approaches to predicting election results. This study proposes sentiment analysis as part of the initial stage to building an alternative solution to predicting the outcome of an election. The study analysed sentiments shared on social media during the build up to the August 2021 general elections. A total of 3,519 tweets were scrapped from Twitter and sentiment analysis was performed on the tweets. Topic modeling was subsequently also performed on the tweets using BERTopic. The findings of the study reveal that as election day drew closer, there was an exponential increase in the number that were posted on a daily basis. Some of the topics included voter engagement and education, the shutdown of the internet and the election day.