MPs and Twitter: what are MPs tweeting about?

Image by Shawn Campbell

Image by Shawn Campbell

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?

To answer the second question I took a random sample of 40 MPs from those who tweet, and then coded their 200 most recent tweets. There were three areas looked at: the content of the tweets (what issues they were on: international, national, constituency or non-political), the purpose of the tweets (were they promoting themselves or their party, explaining their position or something else) and the type of tweet (were they simply posting their thoughts, saying what they were doing or taking the time to respond and communicate with people).

Majority International National Constituency Personal/Non-Political N
0 to 5% 4.2 57.5 30.9 7.4 1400
5% to 10% 6.9 53.8 27.8 11.5 1928
10% to 20% 2.6 39.1 36 22.3 2077
20% to 30% 4.2 55 26.2 14.6 1509
30%+ 1.3 64 20 14.7 400

Tweet content by majority (% of total tweets)

64% of the tweets sampled were on national issues, by far the most common topic. The second most common topic was MPs’ constituencies at 20%, whilst non-political tweets accounted for 14.7% and ones on international issues just 1.3%. Unsurprisingly a recurring topic is the economy, with MPs regularly attacking the opposing parties. Often Twitter simply appeared to act as an echo chamber, with MPs repeating what was being said by their party in the news or in the House of Commons.

Party Inform Solve Problem Explain Promote Journal Unclassified N
Conservative 14.6 2.9 30.9 35.7 3.5 12.4 2149
Labour 16 2.4 33.7 29.1 4 14.8 3165
Liberal Democrat 9.5 2.4 33.8 42.2 1 11.1 1600
Overall 14.8 2.6 33.7 31.9 3.2 13.8 6914

Tweet purpose by party (% of total tweets)

When it came to the purpose of the tweets most were explaining their or their party’s position or opinion on the matter, with a similar amount also promoting their or their party’s activities.  When it came to tweeting about their constituency it was often to promote what they were doing, such as visiting a local group, attending an event , or saying how well attended their surgery was. A small number of MPs responded to constituents with problems their constituents wanted addressing, but these accounted for only 2.6% of the tweets sampled. It looks like people  rarely try to contact their MP through Twitter when they have a problem they want to contact them about.

One possibility considered before carrying out the research was that there would be a high number of non-political tweets designed to make the MPs appear more ‘in-touch’ or ‘human’. A recent example of this was George Osborne’s much derided burger tweet before his spending review speech.

However, non-political tweets accounted for only 14.7% of the tweets sampled, meaning over 85% were political. And of those 14.7%, few had the staged feel of Cameron’s or Osborne’s tweets. They were just tweeting about their interests. Perhaps this is because many backbenchers tweet for themselves, rather than having an aide do it for them.

Party Conversation Status Pass Along News Comments/ Opinion N
Conservative 28.2 25.8 28.4 3.5 14.1 2149
Labour 21.7 17.3 34 7.4 19.6 3165
Liberal Democrat 36.8 8.1 45.9 2.3 6.9 1600
Overall 28.7 15.3 35.9 5.3 14.8 6914

Tweet type by party (% of total tweets)

One final area to look at was the type of tweets posted, the main point of interest here being whether MPs were communicating with the public much. 28.7% of the tweets sampled were communication with other users using Twitter’s ‘@’ function. Some of these were conversations with fellow MPs, journalists and other MPs, but a large number were with members of the public. It has been suggested that the Internet and social media could herald a new relationship between elected representatives and the public, and there was certainly a willingness to interact and respond to people from a good number of MPs. However, this willingness varied from MP to MP and there are still over 200 who do not use Twitter at all. If there is a new relationship forming, it is still in its very early stages.

James Donald recently graduated from the University of Nottingham with a BA in Politics.

See also:
MPs and Twitter: who’s tweeting?
MPs and Twitter: which parties are tweeting?
MPs and Twitter: an infographic

MPs and Twitter: which parties are tweeting?

Image by Shawn Campbell

Image by Shawn Campbell

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? Something that emerged when carrying out the research was the differences between MPs from the three main parties.

Party Yes No N
Conservative 54.8 45.2 305
Labour 69.1 30.9 256
Liberal Democrat 75.4 24.6 57
Others 65.6 34.4 32

Who tweets? By party (% of total MPs)

As of January this year, 54.8% of Conservative MPs were tweeting. This is significantly less than the 69.1% of Labour MPs and 75.4% of Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives certainly look to be lagging behind the two other parties, but this difference in numbers is largely down to the number of tweeting frontbenchers.

The majority of Labour and Liberal Democrat frontbenchers do tweet, with over 80% of each party’s frontbenchers on Twitter. This is in contrast to the Conservative party, with only half of its frontbenchers using Twitter as of January this year. If there is one party that is behind in using Twitter it is the Conservatives, with proportionately less of their MPs on it and significantly fewer frontbenchers. It seems to be viewed with suspicion amongst the party’s leadership, with David Cameron once infamously claiming ‘too many tweets make a twat’ and reported attempts to restrict their MPs’ use of it. On Labour’s side, with 85.7% of their frontbenchers on Twitter this suggests more of an effort to get their frontbench to make the most of Twitter.

If they are making this effort, it hasn’t filtered through to their backbenchers. Whilst there is a large difference between the number of Labour and Conservative frontbenchers who tweet, there is little difference between the backbenchers with 56.3% of Labour backbenchers and 59.8% of Conservative backbenchers tweeting. With fewer MPs, proportionately there are more tweeting Liberal Democrat backbenchers at 71.8%. The Liberal Democrats are the only one of the three parties with a high proportion of both front and backbenchers tweeting, meaning overall they have the highest proportion of MPs on Twitter. Only 13 of their MPs do not tweet. Given their position as the third party, this is not massively surprising. Twitter is perhaps seen by them as a means to promote their party, whereas they might struggle for coverage in the media compared to the other two, larger parties.

In the run up to the 2005 general election a number of MPs set up blogs, and in 2010 they signed up to Twitter. They realised the benefits of blogging and tweeting for their campaigns, but as things stand the Conservatives lag behind in terms of their presence on Twitter (particularly amongst its ministers, being the only party with its backbenchers more likely to tweet than its frontbenchers). It will be interesting to see whether they feel the need to change this as we head towards 2015, or whether they will remain behind the other two parties.

James Donald recently graduated from the University of Nottingham with a BA in Politics.

See also:
MPs and Twitter: who’s tweeting?
MPs and Twitter: what are MPs tweeting about?
MPs and Twitter: an infographic

MPs and Twitter: who’s tweeting?

Image by Shawn Campbell

Image by Shawn Campbell

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.

Age Yes No N
Under 30 75 25 4
30-39 83.8 16.2 74
40-49 76.1 23.9 188
50-59 59.1 40.9 230
60-69 44.8 55.2 125
Over 70 27.6 72.4 29

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.

Intake Yes No N
1959-1979 25 75 24
1983 31 69 29
1987 37.9 62.1 29
1992 55.6 44.4 45
1997 52 48 102
2001 56.7 43.3 67
2005 71.1 28.9 114
2010 77.1 22.9 240

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.

Majority Conservative Labour Liberal Democrats Others Overall
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
30% + 39.4 73.2 100 83.3 56.3

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
Conservative 56.3 50 229 76
Labour 58.9 85.7 158 98
Liberal Democrats 71.8 83.3 39 18
Overall 58.7 71.4 426 192

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.

See also:
MPs and Twitter: which parties are tweeting?
MPs and Twitter: what are MPs tweeting about?
MPs and Twitter: an infographic

Image by Johan Larsson

UK Politics Academics on Twitter: A League Table

We recently published a list of UK based Politics, IR and Public Policy academics on Twitter and since then we’ve had lots of additions to the list, which now contains over 250 academics.

We will periodically continue to update the list, so please let us know if we’ve missed anyone or, if you’re new to Twitter, we’ll add you.

However, we thought it would be interesting to take a snapshot of the top 50 academics, by follower numbers. We hope this will encourage others to think about how they use Twitter for research, teaching and dissemination.

Follower numbers were accurate as of Wednesday June, 19th 2013.

Name

University

Twitter

Followers

Christopher M. Davidson Durham dr_davidson

30, 592

Matthew Goodwin Nottingham GoodwinMJ

5,938

Philip Cowley Nottingham philipjcowley

5,693

Matthew Ashton Nottingham Trent DrMatthewAshton

4,511

Norman Geras Manchester normblog

3,847

Kristian Ulrichsen LSE Dr_Ulrichsen

3,811

Patrick Dunleavy LSE PJDunleavy

3,417

Alex Callinicos King’s alex_callinicos

3,183

Laura McAllister Liverpool LauraMcAllister

3,135

Laura Hammond SOAS lhammondsoas

2,928

Olaf Cramme LSE olafcramme

2,659

Tim Bale Queen Mary ProfTimBale

2,524

James Boys Richmond/King’s jamesdboys

2,349

Lord Norton of Louth Hull LordNortonLouth

2,248

Steven Fielding Nottingham PolProfSteve

2,098

Peter R. Neumann King’s PeterRNeumann

1,869

Andreas Bieler Nottingham Andreas_Bieler

1,599

Tony Bovaird Birmingham tonybovaird

1,558

Martin O’Neill York martin_oneill

1,505

Stefan Wolff Birmingham stefwolff

1,483

Robert Ford Manchester robfordmancs

1,461

Catherine Baker Hull richmondbridge

1,442

Andrew Chadwick Royal Holloway andrew_chadwick

1,410

Colin Talbot Manchester colinrtalbot

1,404

Stuart Wilks-Heeg Liverpool StuartWilksHeeg

1,327

Colin Corpus De Montfort ProfCopusLG

1,304

Becca Reilly-Cooper Oxford boodleoops

1,287

Marc Stears Oxford mds49

1,272

Peter John UCL peterjohn10

1,198

Andrew Russell Manchester PoliBlogManc

1,166

Matthew Ford Hull warmatters

1,148

James Ker-Lindsay LSE JamesKerLindsay

1,147

Jon Sullivan Nottingham jonlsullivan

1,105

Jenny Mathers Aberystwyth jgmaber

1,095

Jack Holland Surrey DrJackHolland

1,094

Chris Brooke Bristol chrisbrooke

1,068

Jon Tonge Liverpool JonTonge

1,068

Simon Usherwood Surrey Usherwood

1,045

Phil Clark SOAS philclark79

1,041

Simon Hix LSE simonjhix

1,033

Michael E. Smith Aberdeen ProfMESmith

1,009

Jason Dittmer UCL RealJDittmer

855

Stephen McKay Lincoln SocialPolicy

853

Christine Cheng King’s cheng_christine

846

Ben O’Loughlin Royal Holloway Ben_OLoughlin

825

Ian Greener Durham ijgreener

775

Darren Lilleker Bournemouth DrDGL

755

Paul Cairney Stirling CairneyPaul

746

Helen Margetts Oxford HelenMargetts

743

Alan Renwick Reading alanjrenwick

728

UK Politics Academics on Twitter

Image by Johan Larsson

Image by Johan Larsson

Following on from our league table of Politics departments on Twitter, we have drawn up a list of Politics academics that are also using Twitter.

LSE have already produced an excellent list of academic tweeters, which offered a useful starting place, but we wanted to look specifically at Politics academics and find out exactly how many are using Twitter.

As was pointed out in response to the department league table, some academics far outstrip their departments when it comes to number of followers and Klout. What’s more, some department Twitter accounts focus on internal, departmental matters, rather than wider impact. Therefore, individual academics have an important role to play in the dissemination of research.

We’ve put together a list of all the UK based Politics, IR and Public Policy academics that we are aware of on Twitter, but there are probably many more out there. Let us know either in the comments or on Twitter, if we’ve missed anyone.

Once we have a final list we’ll be publishing a league table of the top 50 academics based on followers. You can download a full list here (ordered alphabetically by university) or see our Twitter list.