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Understanding public opinion to the introduction of minimum unit pricing in Scotland: a qualitative study using Twitter
  1. Laurence Astill Wright,
  2. Su Golder,
  3. Adam Balkham,
  4. J McCambridge
  1. Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Laurence Astill Wright; laurencewright{at}


Objectives On 1 May 2018 minimum unit pricing (MUP) of alcohol was introduced in Scotland. This study used Twitter posts to quantify sentiment expressed online during the introduction of MUP, conducted a thematic analysis of these perceptions and analysed which Twitter users were associated with which particular sentiments.

Design and setting This qualitative social media analysis captured all tweets relating to MUP during the 2 weeks after the introduction of the policy. These tweets were assessed using a mixture of human and machine coding for relevance, sentiment and source. A thematic analysis was conducted.

Participants 74 639 tweets were collected over 14 days. Of these 53 574 were relevant to MUP.

Results Study findings demonstrate that opinion on the introduction of MUP in Scotland was somewhat divided, as far as is discernible on Twitter, with a slightly higher proportion of positive posts (35%) than negative posts (28%), with positive sentiment stronger in Scotland itself. Furthermore, 55% of positive tweets/retweets were originally made by health or alcohol policy-related individuals or organisations. Thematic analysis of tweets showed some evidence of misunderstanding around policy issues.

Conclusions It is possible to appreciate the divided nature of public opinion on the introduction of MUP in Scotland using Twitter, the nature of the sentiment around it and the key actors involved. It will be possible to later study how this changes when the policy becomes more established.

  • alcohol
  • scotland
  • pubic policy
  • public opinion
  • social media
  • internet

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  • Contributors LAW, SG and JM were responsible for the original study design. LAW was responsible for primary data coding, analysis and for initial drafting of this report. AB was the second coder. LAW, SG, AB and JM were responsible for subsequent interpretation, editing and rewriting for the report.

  • Funding This work was supported by a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award in Humanities and Social Science (200321/Z/15/Z) to JM.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The University of York Health Sciences Research Governance Committee was consulted and recommended that the study did not require ethical approval as the Twitter data used were already in the public domain.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data for this article is available.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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