Tag Archives: campaigns

The (Local) General Election on Twitter

The UK’s national election is decided on a constituency basis: 650 odd separate small elections, each returning one MP. Despite the obvious importance of national parties and their leaders for shaping the election campaign as a whole, it is commonly accepted that the ability of local campaigns is also a significant factor. For example, the Liberal Democrats are well known for having highly organised local activities in their home constituencies; something which might help them hold onto seats despite their overall poor polling in national polls. Given this, for those interested in the influence of social media on the election, it’s worth looking not just at nationally relevant hashtags and Twitter accounts, but how local candidates have been using social media.

In a previous post Taha Yasseri and Stefano de Sabbata looked at the distribution of candidate accounts on Twitter, based on data from YourNextMP. In this post, using the same YNMP data as well as tweets collected by Scott Hale from the Twitter Streaming API over the last month, we look at the actual tweeting activity of MPs. The map below shows the level of activity of each MP in each British constituency for six UK parties in the month leading up to the election. The scale shows light, medium and heavy users of Twitter

OII - GE2015 - Candidate Activity on Twitter - Bright, Hale - web

Level of candidate activity on Twitter

Almost 450,000 tweets were sent by candidates of these six parties in the month leading up to the general election (the Labour party sent over 120,000, the Conservatives and the Green Party sent around 80,000 each, the Liberal Democrats just over 70,000, UKIP just over 60,000 and the SNP just over 15,000).

Compared to the map which Taha and Stefano produced on account distribution, in this new one regional patterns are clearly more apparent: whereas the major parties have candidates with Twitter accounts almost uniformly across the UK, their level of usage varies a lot. Only the SNP are uniform heavy users of Twitter: only two of their candidates sent less than 10 tweets in this period, and the majority sent more than 100. This also chimes with the fact that they are the party who has, relative to the overall number of candidates, created the most Twitter accounts – clearly they have a very active and organised social media presence.

OII - GE2015 - Tweet Histograms - Bright, Hale

Candidate activity on Twitter by party

The histogram above show more detail about the level of twitter activity and how it breaks down between different parties. Conservative, Green and Labour have broadly similar patterns, with the average candidate having sent around 100 tweets in the last month, whilst a few have sent several thousand. UKIP and the Liberal Democrats show a flatter distribution.

Of course, it’s one thing to tweet, but is anyone else actually listening? More on that soon…

Which parties are having the most impact on Twitter?

The previous two posts have shown that the amount of effort parties are putting in on Twitter at the local level is pretty variable. But what about the response they are getting? In this post we’ll look at the amount of mentions candidates receive on Twitter. A mention could be a retweet or it could be a message @ someone – any time the candidate’s name is in there. Data was harvested from Datasift, using the same YourNextMP data for the list of candidate Twitter handles.

In the week before the election candidates were mentioned over one million times. Lots of that activity, it goes without saying, goes to the party leaders: Ed Miliband accounts for almost 120,000 of those mentions alone, with, Cameron, Farage, Clegg and Bennett in places 2 – 5. Yet there was also a lot of activity for less nationally famous figures: over the 2,312 candidates in the YourNextMP dataset, only 12 weren’t mentioned even once during that week (and none of them tweeted either).

Why do some candidates get more attention than others? The most obvious explanation is that some candidates tweet more than others: and being active on social media ought to be a way of getting noticed. The image below plots all of the candidates in the dataset as a point, comparing the number of times they tweeted with the number of times they are mentioned, on a logarithmic scale. The positive relationship is clear.


Twitter mentions of local party candidates

However within all the points, there also seem to be some differences between the parties.  The figure below makes the different clearer by grouping all the candidates into a per party average. What it shows is that, while for every party writing more tweets tends to get more mentions, some parties have a much better “Tweet to mention” ratio than others. In other words, their tweets have on average more impact, and their presence is on average greater. Like the previous one, this graph is on a log scale, meaning that the differences between parties are in orders of magnitude. So, for example, 100 tweets from a Lib Dem candidate would give around 100 mentions; but the same amount from an SNP candidate would give over 1,000 mentions.


Twitter mentions of local party candidates – averaged by party

Broadly speaking, we can see the parties form three groups on social media in terms of outreach: the SNP are clearly in front, Labour and Conservatives are in the middle, and the Greens and Liberal Democrats at the back. UKIP are somewhere in between the middle and back groups. Interestingly, these relationships hold more or less regardless of the amount of tweets sent by the candidate (and the most famous candidates were by no means the most avid tweeters – Miliband for example only authored 20 tweets in this period, whilst others authored several hundred).

Summary? Some parties have a lot more impact on social media than others.

NB: Post was updated slightly @ 19.45 to correct a data collection issue – overall conclusions weren’t change.

Which parties were most read on Wikipedia?

Taha and Stefano previously looked at the distribution of Wikipedia pages by candidate. These pages are much more patchy than Twitter handles: only in the Conservative and Labour cases do more than 40% of candidates have an account, whilst most other parties have far less (though we should note that we are relying on the data crowdsourced by YourNextMP, which is brilliant but not guaranteed to be perfectly accurate). This could be a mistake: the 520 candidates who did have a Wikipedia page together garnered 1.6 million views in the week before the election. Could the candidates who didn’t make have missed a trick? Again, the party leaders account for a lot of the traffic: David Cameron and Ed Miliband contribute around 400,000 of those views alone. But many other pages attracted several thousand views, which in the context of a closely contested election in constituencies of around 70,000 in size, could be quite significant. The distributions of page views by party are shown below.


How do Wikipedia views compare to activity on Twitter? They are uncannily similar: they are highly correlated, and at around the same levels: on average, candidates which got 1,000 Twitter mentions got 1,000 Wikipedia views. Perhaps a surprise – considering the very different mechanisms which generate the data.


The question is of course: do these Wikipedia views make any difference to the local battles? Once we have the full results we can find out…

Where do people mention candidates on Twitter?

In previous posts we’ve looked at people mentioning local party candidates on Twitter. In that post we basically assumed that people mentioning local candidates were based in the same constituency as the candidate themselves. But is that the case? It could be that the majority of tweets are coming from large cities, especially London, where the majority of the party machines are typically based.

Candidate Mention Locations

Candidate mention locations on Twitter in the month leading up to the UK General Election 2015

To provide a rough check of this, we looked at all mentions of candidates on Twitter during the last month which had geolocation enabled (usually because they are tweeted through a smartphone). Geolocated tweets are a fraction of the overall tweets produced (less than 5%); nevertheless, they provide a rough and ready way of checking that all of our candidate tweets are not from one place.

In short, candidate mentions are pretty evenly spread through the country (albeit based on a relatively small amount of data): there is no sense they are concentrated in one part of the country.