For my final year dissertation I chose to look at what use MPs’ are making of social media. Focussing on their use of Twitter, I set out to answer two questions: which MPs are tweeting and what are they using it for? Here I will outline what I found when exploring which MPs are using Twitter.
Who tweets? By age (% of total MPs)
As of January this year, 408 MPs were on Twitter and 242 not. A clear disparity between younger and older MPs was found, with younger, more recently elected MPs far more likely to tweet than older ones who have been an MP for longer. Over 80% of MPs under 40 tweet, compared to only 44.8% aged 60-69 and 27.6% over 70.
Who tweets? By intake (% of total MPs)
Those MPs elected at the 2010 general election were the most likely to tweet, with 77.1% of them using Twitter. The intake of every parliament since 1983 proportionately has more MPs using Twitter than the last, the only exception being slightly more of the 1992 intake using Twitter than the 1997 intake (55.6% compared to 52%). All of this suggests that in the future, as older MPs retire and new, younger ones are elected, the total number of MPs using Twitter is going to go up.
|0% to 5%||72.5||88.9||93.3||80||81.4|
|5% to 10%||73.8||77.1||50||83.3||73.4|
|10% to 20%||51.9||59||72.2||70||57.2|
|20% to 30%||51.3||60.9||90||28.6||56.6|
Who tweets? By majority (% of total MPs)
I also looked at this question from the angle of MPs’ majorities to see whether MPs defending a small majority are more likely to tweet than those with a safe seat. This appears to be the case. MPs with a majority of under 5% are the most likely to tweet, with 81.4% of them doing so. Those with a majority between 5 and 10% are the group with the next highest proportion tweeting on 73.4%, whilst those with majorities of +30% are the least likely to tweet. Fewer than 60% of MPs with such a majority tweet.
Whilst there is an overall correlation, the picture within the individual parties is more mixed. All the parties have a high proportion of MPs with majorities under 5% tweeting, but when it comes to the larger majorities, over 70% of Labour MPs with a majority of +30% tweet (well above the overall figure) whilst less than 40% of Conservatives do. A small majority does look to be an incentive to tweet across the board, but only within the Conservative party is an MP with a large majority significantly less likely to do so.
|Party||Backbenchers||Frontbenchers||Total Backbenchers||Total Frontbenchers|
Who tweets? Backbenchers v. frontbenchers (% of total MPs tweeting)
Finally, frontbenchers are more likely to tweet than backbenchers. Of the three main parties, 71.4% of MPs who sit on their party’s frontbench tweet compared to 58.7% of backbenchers. These numbers do not tell the whole story however, as there are noticeable differences between the parties, something that will be looked at more in the next post.
James Donald recently graduated from the University of Nottingham with a BA in Politics.