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Politics Departments on Twitter: A League Table

Image by Jurgen Appelo
Image by Jurgen Appelo

We had a great response to our draft league table and there have been four new additions to the league table: @LSEPubAffairs, @LivUniPol, @PSI_UEA and @SussexPolitics. Here is the final, updated version of the league table.

The follower numbers were accurate as of Monday May 20, 2013.

School or Department

University

Twitter

Followers

Department of War Studies King’s warstudies

4,202

School of Politics and International Relations Nottingham NottsPolitics

2,289

Department of Government LSE LSEGovernment

1,988

Institute of Local Government Birmingham INLOGOV

1,343

Blavatnik School Oxford BlavatnikSchool

1,263

School of Politics Surrey SurreyPolitics

1,014

School of Politics and International Studies Hull HullPoliticsDep

991

Department of Politics and International Studies SOAS soaspolitics

967

Department of Politics and International Relations Westminster DPIRWestminster

751

Department of International Relations LSE LSEIRDept

686

Department of Politics Birkbeck bbkpolitics

682

School of Politics and International Relations Kent POLIRatKENT

560

BA Politics in Dept. of Behavioural & Social Sciences Huddersfield hudpolitics

525

Department of Government Essex uniessexgovt

451

Department of International Politics Aberystwyth InterpolAber

446

Department of Politics and International Relations Oxford Politics_Oxford

374

Department of Politics Sheffield ShefUniPolitics

373

Department of Political Science and International Studies Birmingham BhamPolsis

352

Politics and International Relations Division Southampton sotonpolitics

336

School of European Studies Cardiff cardiffeurop

319

School of Politics and International Relations Queen Mary QMPoliticsIR

302

Academy of Government Edinburgh Edinburgh_AoG

301

Institute of Public Affairs LSE LSEPubAffairs

228

Department of Political Science UCL uclspp

224

School of Sociology, Politics and International Relations Bristol SPAISBristol

207

Department of Political Economy King’s kingspolecon

203

Department of Politics Liverpool LivUniPol

184

Department of Politics and International Relations Leicester PoliticsLeicsU

170

School of Politics, Economics and International Relations Reading UniRdg_SPEIR

136

Politics and International Relations Edinburgh EdinburghPIR

114

School of Politics and International Studies Leeds POLISatLeeds

111

School of Political, Social and International Studies UEA PSI_UEA

89

Politics and International Relations Division Plymouth IRatPlymouth

87

Department of Politics, Languages and Int. Studies Bath PoLIS_Bath

63

Department of International Studies and Social Science Coventry covuniisss

59

School of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy Keele SpireKeele

58

Department of Politics Sussex SussexPolitics

42

Other than these new additions, and despite most of the Twitter accounts gaining new followers since the draft league table was published, there has been very little change in the position of departments. This might suggest that departments joining Twitter now are always going to be at a disadvantage compared to those that adopted Twitter early on.

Indeed, @PJDunleavy suggested this very thing. So we decided to look into this to see if there is a link.

Days on Twitter were accurate as of Monday May 20, 2013.

Followers_Days on Twitter graph

As you might expect there is quite a high correlation between the number of followers a department has and the number of days it has been on Twitter.

However, there are some instances where departments that have not been on Twitter very long have managed to gain a lot of followers in a short time. For instance, @uniessexgov has been on Twitter for less than a year (208 days) and already has 451 followers. Similarly the follower numbers for @LSEGovernment seem disproportionate with the length of time the department has been on Twitter (729 days).

This might suggest that it is not in fact too late for those departments that haven’t signed up to Twitter. Our league table shows that out of 81 universities in the UK with a politics department, 31 have at least one Twitter account (five of the universities in the league table have more than one politics department on Twitter), so there are still a lot of departments out there that are not engaging with the social media channel. That’s not to say that every politics department in the UK should join Twitter or that the point of joining Twitter is to get as many followers as possible. As we have already pointed out, the way in which a department uses Twitter will affect the number of followers it is likely to get. However, if the aim of social science is to engage with society, then it seems many politics departments are missing out on an important opportunity.

Looking at the length of time departments have been on Twitter is also interesting as it reveals which politics departments were early adopters of the social media platform. @hudpolitics comes in first at 1,428 days on Twitter.

@KAMWright suggested looking at Klout scores, instead of follower numbers. Klout is a website that measures influence and gives social media accounts a score between 0 and 100 (100 being very influential). The influence score takes into account how many times a Twitter account’s tweets are retweeted and engaged with. This score gives an idea of how interesting and engaging a particular Twitter account is.

Klout scores were accurate as of Monday May 20, 2013.

School or Department

University

Twitter

Klout

School of Politics and International Relations Nottingham NottsPolitics

56

Department of War Studies King’s warstudies

50

Blavatnik School Oxford BlavatnikSchool

48

Department of Government LSE LSEGovernment

47

School of Politics and International Studies Hull HullPoliticsDep

47

Institute of Local Government Birmingham INLOGOV

46

School of Politics Surrey SurreyPolitics

46

Department of Politics and International Studies SOAS soaspolitics

44

Department of Politics Birkbeck bbkpolitics

44

School of Politics and International Relations Kent POLIRatKENT

44

Institute of Public Affairs LSE LSEPubAffairs

44

Academy of Government Edinburgh Edinburgh_AoG

43

Department of Political Science UCL uclspp

43

Department of International Relations LSE LSEIRDept

42

Politics and International Relations Division Southampton sotonpolitics

42

BA Politics in Dept. of Behavioural & Social Sciences Huddersfield hudpolitics

41

Department of International Politics Aberystwyth InterpolAber

41

Department of Politics and International Relations Oxford Politics_Oxford

41

School of Sociology, Politics and International Relations Bristol SPAISBristol

40

Department of Political Science and International Studies Birmingham BhamPolsis

39

Department of Politics Sheffield ShefUniPolitics

38

Department of Government Essex uniessexgovt

37

Department of Politics and International Relations Leicester PoliticsLeicsU

37

School of Political, Social and International Studies UEA PSI_UEA

37

School of Politics and International Studies Leeds POLISatLeeds

34

Department of Politics and International Relations Westminster DPIRWestminster

31

Department of Politics Liverpool LivUniPol

31

School of European Studies Cardiff cardiffeurop

30

Politics and International Relations Division Plymouth IRatPlymouth

30

School of Politics and International Relations Queen Mary QMPoliticsIR

29

Politics and International Relations Edinburgh EdinburghPIR

29

Department of Political Economy King’s kingspolecon

28

Department of Politics, Languages and Int. Studies Bath PoLIS_Bath

26

Department of International Studies and Social Science Coventry covuniisss

26

Department of Politics Sussex SussexPolitics

26

School of Politics, Economics and International Relations Reading UniRdg_SPEIR

24

School of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy Keele SpireKeele

18

On the whole Klout scores do seem to correlate with follower numbers. Most accounts are neither punching above their weight nor significantly less influential than you would expect given their follower numbers. There are some exceptions, such as @DPIRWestminster which drops from 9th place on the follower league table to 26th place on the Klout league table. Whilst @LSEPubAffairs, @Edinburgh_AoG and @uclspp all leap up on the Klout score league table. However, given that only two departments have a score of 50 or above, it seems there is still a long a long way to go before the platform is being fully utilised.

This league table is (as far as we are aware) the first of its kind to provide a survey of UK politics departments on Twitter. More and more politics departments, thinks tanks, academics and political organisations are joining Twitter – the Political Studies Association (@PolStudiesAssoc), for instance, is now on Twitter – and it is great to see new department Twitter accounts springing up even as we’ve been carrying out this survey. We hope that it will encourage others to start engaging with the platform and in turn promote not only their own research but also the discipline of politics as a whole.

Published inAcademic Impact

3 Comments

  1. EstelleRW EstelleRW

    Cambridge’s POLIS doesn’t seem to be on Twitter but the multidisciplinary CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities @CRASSHlive) includes lots of political science, is extremely active and has 2,583 followers.

  2. I still think Patrick Dunleavy has a point about the thing to measure. I’m not suggesting that we all be instrumental and adhere slavishly to RCUK designs, but the Impact driver tends to push many departments into impact groupings with their own identities, so it might make sense for departments to focus on smaller group-based twitter accounts (in which, say, the group has a better handle on its output) than a big one (which might be run by one person, with most people clueless about its existence). The LSE in particular has done this well. The popular twitter brands are often based on an idea or a topic rather than a broader institutional brand (and, for example, Stirling is not listed, but it has a twitter account on Scottish referendums).
    I also think that if I am writing an impact narrative/ template, I will make reference to the followers (although this has a cultish connotation) of individuals as much as (if not more than) followers of a department (likely to be populated disproportionately by the students taking a course with that department?). Even I am doing well compared to these departments – between Kent and Birbeck in the following and almost on a par with Blavatnik (3rd) on Klout, which makes me wonder about the impact of departments rather than their small proportion of active members.
    For the sake of completeness, I will argue against myself to say that one problem with the accounts of individuals is that people may follow and retweet you because you are a good source of nonsense and trivia. For example, I am using my following to find out the details of a scene in The Mechanic (the Charles Bronson version). A lot of individual accounts may not necessarily be used to disseminate knowledge and exchange ideas. Maybe the departmental brand ensures that the twitter account is focused to that end.

  3. Colin Talbot Colin Talbot

    Interesting. This list is a bit restrictive by not including the twitter following’s of blogsite’s like the LSEs and ours (Mancheter Policy Blogs), which are much larger than these departmental ones.

    Colin

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