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.

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.

Why and how are Russia’s regional governors using Twitter?

Governor Kanokov uses Twitter to report terrorist attacks in his troubled North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria.

Governor Kanokov uses Twitter to report terrorist attacks in his troubled North Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.

State control over most of the national media in Russia has meant that Russian newspapers and TV today are a lot less interesting as a source of political research than they were in the 1990s. The situation regarding the internet is different. This is relatively free and online content in Russia is not directly controlled or filtered as it is in other less free or authoritarian contexts such as, for example, in China. Drives towards the development of a modern ‘information society’ under both Presidents Medvedev and Putin have led to an explosion of internet use and available web content over the past decade. Whilst only about 3 million Russians had daily access to the internet in 2003, this number grew to over 50 million – about 43% of the population – by 2013. A move towards e-government was central to Medvedev’s modernisation drive and he repeatedly called on Russian politicians and officials to create an online presence. The quality and quantity of online content quickly improved in reaction and today there is an abundance of new primary-source electronic texts on the Russian internet that is creating many new opportunities for scholars to extend existing research on political elites.

In our effort to review the available online material and its potential for future research, we analysed the use of new and social media by Russia’s 759 highest officials. We uncovered considerable engagement that varied from institution to institution and also found that blogs and Twitter were particularly popular. The group of politicians that stood out from the analysis were the governors of Russia’s 83 regions. Almost 40% of them maintained an active Twitter account and many also had a blog and a homepage. The reason we were surprised at this finding is that it seemed to go against much that one would expect from the point of view of the standard literature on the adoption of online tools by politicians. This literature tends to focus on electoral campaigns and the uptake of social media as a means to connect with potential voters and decrease the distance between representatives and their constituents. The thing is that Russia’s regional governors are not elected, but nominated by the president and approved by the regional legislature. According to the standard literature, therefore, one could expect the uptake of Twitter by Russian governors to be very limited. This motivated us to take a closer look at this group of politicians in order to address this apparent puzzle. Why are so many governors reaching out to citizens via social media? Were they motivated merely by Medvedev’s explicit request to officials of an increased online presence? Or is online engagement with citizens seen as an effective tool towards the end of maintaining control and ensuring the smooth running of territories?

In our recent article we took an in-depth look at the uses, content and purpose of the Russian governors’ tweets in order to gain an understanding of what, in the absence of the imperative of an electoral cycle, they were using this social media platform for. Our study showed quite substantial variation in the uses to which it is being put. Some governors clearly have their Twitter accounts maintained by their press teams and there is very little actual ‘added value’ of the information provided in their tweets. These instances indicate that a Twitter account is maintained in order to be seen to be having one in response to Medvedev’s request. But other governors use Twitter more creatively and some use it extensively as a communication tool. A number of governors inform their readership via tweets that go beyond the mere statement of facts in raising problematic issues of concern to the region, for example.

Governor Chirkunov of Perm writes about the problem of corrupt officials in a number of his tweets. Governor Kanokov of Kabardino-Balkaria frequently tweets information about acts of terrorism occurring in his region. Being located in the troubled North Caucasus, Kabardino-Balkaria is experiencing deadly terrorist attacks and suicide bombings on a regular basis. The vast number of attacks there means that they are rarely reported in the national media. Kanakov’s emotional tweets, mourning for the victims and calling for vigilance amongst the population, are therefore often the only published accounts of these tragic events. In a few interesting cases Twitter is used as an actual working instrument to run the administration. Governor Men’ of the Ivanovo region, for example, often tweets about local problems raised by the public about issues of immediate concern, which are retweeted and passed on by him to relevant subordinate officials. To cite but one example, a woman tweeted for help with problems relating to the removal of rubbish from her housing estate’s courtyard. Men’ retweeted the message to the head of Ivanovo’s city administration. A high level of conversation is going on between governors and other officials, journalists and other elites. Direct dialogue with constituents and citizens is less frequent, but not entirely absent. We found that many Russian governors’ engagement with the social media platform Twitter is no more than a diet of news management and online propaganda. However, some uses we found in our research suggest potential for increasing the responsiveness of politics in Russia’s regions. Whilst this is, of course, a far cry from the more optimistic ideas about what online communication could potentially achieve, it is an interesting observation nonetheless and might come as a surprise to some observers of contemporary Russian politics.

Given the extent of the uptake of social media use by Russian politicians there has been surprisingly little research into the subject to date. Our analysis of Russia’s tweeting governors is merely exploratory and more interpretative work is necessary. What we clearly can conclude from our research, however, is that the online texts created by Russian politicians and officials are an interesting and potentially important window onto Russian politics and political communications. They should be used more extensively as a valuable addition to the ways in which Russian political elites are usually studied.

Read the full article: Making a connection to the provinces? Russia’s tweeting governors.

Bettina Renz and Jonathan Sullivan

Politics Departments on Twitter: A (Draft) League Table

Image by Jurgen Appelo

Image by Jurgen Appelo

Twitter is becoming an indispensable tool for the modern academic. Sceptics might doubt it, but the social media platform is perfectly designed to facilitate the dissemination of research findings, information about research projects and teaching materials. Beyond that, Twitter can significantly enhance the profile of an academic, their research and their respective School and University more generally.

It is no surprise, therefore, that there are now numerous guides on how academics can reap the benefits that Twitter offers (like herehere and here). But until now, and beyond individual academics, there has been little information (or discussion) about the extent to which actual departments of politics (or political science) are embracing the little blue bird.

We set out on an exploration of this area, by creating a draft league table of politics departments, which are organized according to their number of followers. This is a rather crude but still useful measure of how engaged the respective department is on Twitter. To reiterate, this is a draft league table, and we welcome those who would like us to record changes to contact our Social Media Officer @NottsPolitics, Naomi Racz. These changes will be recorded before we publish the final 2013 league table next week.

The table below only includes official departments or schools rather than, for example, accounts based on individual blogs, university modules or centres. So, for example, we do not include our own Short Not Brutish feed, which the Nottingham Centre for Normative Political Theory launched to encourage and promote research in this area. Similarly, we do not include high profile Twitter feeds for political science blogs, such as the LSE’s LSEEUROPP or LSEImpactBlog. Instead, we list the actual LSE Department of Government.

The figures reported below were accurate as of Monday May 13, 2013.

Based on these data, from a total of 33 departments in the UK who were found to have a Twitter profile, the average number of followers is 646. But there are considerable variations, ranging from the Department of War Studies within Social Science and Public Policy at King’s College London, which has over 4,100 followers, to the Department for Politics, Languages and International Studies at the University of Bath, which has 50 followers. In fact, only six departments have rallied over 1,000 followers. There is also considerable variation in the level of activity, or tweeting. For example, War Studies at King’s occupies the top spot after only 486 tweets, while the School of Politics at Surrey stands in sixth place with well over 2,100 tweet

Clearly, each department will vary according to what they hope to gain from this activity. While some will use Twitter to engage with external audiences, others are clearly using the platform more narrowly, to engage with their students and publicise internal events. For this reason, we warn against interpreting these data as some indication of broader relevance or quality. But as higher education (sorry, #highered) moves into the social media world, pausing to reflect on where we all stand –and what this might mean- is a useful exercise in its own right.

School or Department

University

Twitter

Followers

Department of War Studies King’s warstudies

4,135

School of Politics and International Relations Nottingham NottsPolitics

2,153

Department of Government LSE LSEGovernment

1,949

Institute of Local Government Birmingham INLOGOV

1,323

Blavatnik School Oxford BlavatnikSchool

1,228

School of Politics Surrey SurreyPolitics

1,001

School of Politics and International Studies Hull HullPoliticsDep

983

Department of Politics and International Studies SOAS soaspolitics

940

Department of Politics and International Relations Westminster DPIRWestminster

737

Department of International Relations LSE LSEIRDept

676

Department of Politics Birkbeck bbkpolitics

667

School of Politics and International Relations Kent POLIRatKENT

547

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

509

Department of Government Essex uniessexgovt

435

Department of International Politics Aberystwyth InterpolAber

433

Department of Politics Sheffield ShefUniPolitics

361

Department of Politics and International Relations Oxford Politics_Oxford

360

Department of Political Science and International Studies Birmingham BhamPolsis

348

Politics and International Relations Division Southampton sotonpolitics

324

School of European Studies Cardiff cardiffeurop

313

School of Politics and International Relations Queen Mary QMPoliticsIR

296

Academy of Government Edinburgh Edinburgh_AoG

285

Department of Political Science UCL uclspp

212

School of Sociology, Politics and International Relations Bristol SPAISBristol

202

Department of Political Economy King’s kingspolecon

194

Department of Politics and International Relations Leicester PoliticsLeicsU

161

School of Politics, Economics and International Relations Reading UniRdg_SPEIR

130

Politics and International Relations Edinburgh EdinburghPIR

108

School of Politics and International Studies Leeds POLISatLeeds

101

Politics and International Relations Division Plymouth IRatPlymouth

78

Department of International Studies and Social Science Coventry covuniisss

51

School of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy Keele SpireKeele

51

Department of Politics, Languages and Int. Studies Bath PoLIS_Bath

50

 

Short, not brutish, and quite popular

Hobbes's Leviathan As the editor of CONCEPT’s twitter feed (@shortnotbrutish) it was with some satisfaction that I saw the number of followers edge past 1,000 the other day. Now, the first thing to say is that 1,000 followers would seem the smallest of small beer were you, say, Lady Gaga (34m followers; about the same population size as Uganda), Stephen Fry (5.5m) or even the Institute for Public Policy Research (21.6k), so I wouldn’t want to get this out of proportion. Still, for a feed providing short quotes from political philosophers, it felt like an achievement of sorts.

For one thing it shows that political philosophers, often thought of as a rather long-winded species, are capable of making short, pithy, and tolerably entertaining statements, which can be captured within the 140 character limits of the twittersphere. These are of course taken out of context, and even out of the sentence that provides their natural habitat, in order to be rendered tweetable. But at the potential cost of offending the contextual purist we provide thought-provoking ideas, words, and phrases from the vast corpus of work that might reasonably be considered both ‘political’, and ‘philosophical’ You tend to know you’ve hit the spot when quotations get multiple retweets, the on-line equivalent of a word-of-mouth recommendation.

One of the most retweeted of recent posts was this from Vilfredo Pareto: ‘When it is useful to them, men can believe a theory of which they know nothing more than its name’ – written before anyone had even heard of post-modernism.

Francis Bacon also scored a hit with ‘Money is like muck. Not good unless it be spread’ which, like most good quotes, speaks for itself.

@shortnotbrutish does not seek to push a political agenda of its own, we just look for interesting material, be it from right, centre, left, or left-field. I leave you with my own personal favourite from the archives, also much retweeted, which comes to us from the American economist J K Galbraith: ‘Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.’

Mat Humphrey