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Twitter and Australian
political debates
Tim Highfield
ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation
Que...
POLITICAL DEBATE ONLINE
• The potential for online platforms (individually and
collectively) to reshape and/or revitalise ...
TWITTER AND POLITICAL DEBATE
• While not used in isolation, Twitter is a particularly
noteworthy platform for political di...
POLITICAL DISCUSSION ON TWITTER
• Potential for political debate to involve wider population
than just journalists and pol...
METHODS
• Comparative analysis of three
Australian political hashtags; data
collected between January and
December 2012
– ...
AUSTRALIAN POLITICS
• Federal politics: currently led by centre-left Australian
Labor Party (ALP), Prime Minister Julia Gi...
AUSTRALIAN POLITICS AND TWITTER
• Twitter more widely taken up – by politicians and general
public – than previous technol...
#AUSPOL
• Popularised around 2010 Federal election (alongside election-
specific hashtags such as #ausvotes) as overarchin...
#AUSPOL
– 1,002,451 tweets (15/01-04/07), 50,622 users
– 19.8 tweets per user, 5,828 tweets per day
0
2000
4000
6000
8000
...
#QLDPOL
– 49,300 tweets (15/01-04/07), 5,668 users
– 8.7 tweets per user, 286.6 tweets per day
State election Civil partne...
#WAPOL
– 21,261 tweets (15/01-26/12), 2,855 users
– 7.4 tweets per user, 61 tweets per day
Opposition leadership change
Tr...
WHO IS TWEETING?
– Highly active group of users within #auspol hashtag:
• Top 1% users contribute 64% of tweets
• 6 users ...
WHO IS TWEETING? #AUSPOL
– Highly active group of users within #auspol hashtag:
• These especially active users not electe...
WHO IS TWEETING? #QLDPOL
– Tweeting patterns also show a core group of users
contributing the majority of hashtagged tweet...
WHO IS TWEETING? #WAPOL
– A lower level of activity, but greater representation
amongst most mentioned and also most activ...
WHO IS TWEETING?
– Politicians in particular often mentioned a lot, but rarely
contribute to hashtagged debates
• @mention...
LIMITATIONS AND FURTHER OUTLOOK
• Caveats:
– Not all voters on Twitter - not representative of entire electorate
– No requ...
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Twitter and Australian political debates

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Presentation for DEL Colloque 'Online Political Participations and Its Critics', Paris, June 2013.

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Transcript of "Twitter and Australian political debates"

  1. 1. Twitter and Australian political debates Tim Highfield ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, Australia t.highfield @ qut.edu.au @timhighfield http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ | http://timhighfield.net/
  2. 2. POLITICAL DEBATE ONLINE • The potential for online platforms (individually and collectively) to reshape and/or revitalise political debate is a long-standing question • An evolving continuum of online political discussions, developed through blogs, citizen journalism projects, social media • Platforms not used in isolation; people discussing politics online tweet about it, blog, share links, comment on statuses…
  3. 3. TWITTER AND POLITICAL DEBATE • While not used in isolation, Twitter is a particularly noteworthy platform for political discussion online: – Public medium (mostly) – Brevity of messages – Associated features: retweets, hashtags, @mentions • Adoption of Twitter as a popular and primary medium for live commentary accompanying (media) events, breaking news, activism (and combinations of these approaches, taking place in same space).
  4. 4. POLITICAL DISCUSSION ON TWITTER • Potential for political debate to involve wider population than just journalists and politicians? • New gatekeepers? • Follow and respond directly to people creating news/shaping politics • To what extent, though, are these different participants in political discussions interacting – or even contributing to the same conversations?
  5. 5. METHODS • Comparative analysis of three Australian political hashtags; data collected between January and December 2012 – #auspol – Federal – #qldpol – Queensland – #wapol – Western Australia • Methods – yourTwapperkeeper captures tweets with specified hashtags from Twitter API – Gawk scripts for processing large datasets (Bruns & Burgess, 2011), Gephi for network visualisation
  6. 6. AUSTRALIAN POLITICS • Federal politics: currently led by centre-left Australian Labor Party (ALP), Prime Minister Julia Gillard; next election due in September 2013, expected to be won by centre-right (conservative) Liberal/National coalition, led by Tony Abbott. Voting is compulsory (93% turnout in 2010). • State politics: – Six states, all bicameral systems except Queensland (unicameral) – Start of 2012: three states ALP in power, three Liberal. (Liberal-National Party took power in Queensland in March 2012).
  7. 7. AUSTRALIAN POLITICS AND TWITTER • Twitter more widely taken up – by politicians and general public – than previous technologies such as blogging. • Accounts established for sitting politicians – At Federal level, 146 of 226 members of Lower and Upper Houses present on Twitter (July 2012) • Hashtags for different political events/broadcasts: – #ausvotes, #ausdecides, #qldvotes – election campaigns – #qt, #waqt – Parliamentary Question Time – #qanda, #insiders – Q & A, Insiders political panel shows
  8. 8. #AUSPOL • Popularised around 2010 Federal election (alongside election- specific hashtags such as #ausvotes) as overarching label for Australian political topics • Endured post-election; however, rather than a space for political debate, seen as increasingly polarised and frequented by trolls: Viewing and participating in 'discussions' on the Twitter stream of #auspol is to immerse yourself in a political cesspit. It is the dark alley in Twitter you walk down when you wonder if you have told anyone where you were going that night. (Jericho, 2012) • State-based hashtags less afflicted by this development (in general)?
  9. 9. #AUSPOL – 1,002,451 tweets (15/01-04/07), 50,622 users – 19.8 tweets per user, 5,828 tweets per day 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 14000 2012-Jan-15 2012-Jan-19 2012-Jan-23 2012-Jan-27 2012-Jan-31 2012-Feb-04 2012-Feb-08 2012-Feb-12 2012-Feb-16 2012-Feb-20 2012-Feb-24 2012-Feb-28 2012-Mar-03 2012-Mar-07 2012-Mar-11 2012-Mar-15 2012-Mar-19 2012-Mar-23 2012-Mar-27 2012-Mar-31 2012-Apr-04 2012-Apr-08 2012-Apr-12 2012-Apr-16 2012-Apr-20 2012-Apr-24 2012-Apr-28 2012-May-02 2012-May-06 2012-May-10 2012-May-14 2012-May-18 2012-May-22 2012-May-26 2012-May-30 2012-Jun-03 2012-Jun-07 2012-Jun-11 2012-Jun-15 2012-Jun-19 2012-Jun-23 2012-Jun-27 2012-Jul-01Carbontax Asylumseekerdebate ALPleadershipspill Budget CraigThomson CraigThomson
  10. 10. #QLDPOL – 49,300 tweets (15/01-04/07), 5,668 users – 8.7 tweets per user, 286.6 tweets per day State election Civil partnerships bill amended 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2012-Jan-15 2012-Jan-19 2012-Jan-23 2012-Jan-27 2012-Jan-31 2012-Feb-04 2012-Feb-08 2012-Feb-12 2012-Feb-16 2012-Feb-20 2012-Feb-24 2012-Feb-28 2012-Mar-03 2012-Mar-07 2012-Mar-11 2012-Mar-15 2012-Mar-19 2012-Mar-23 2012-Mar-27 2012-Mar-31 2012-Apr-04 2012-Apr-08 2012-Apr-12 2012-Apr-16 2012-Apr-20 2012-Apr-24 2012-Apr-28 2012-May-02 2012-May-06 2012-May-10 2012-May-14 2012-May-18 2012-May-22 2012-May-26 2012-May-30 2012-Jun-03 2012-Jun-07 2012-Jun-11 2012-Jun-15 2012-Jun-19 2012-Jun-23 2012-Jun-27 2012-Jul-01 Tweets Date
  11. 11. #WAPOL – 21,261 tweets (15/01-26/12), 2,855 users – 7.4 tweets per user, 61 tweets per day Opposition leadership change Treasurer resigns Cabinet reshuffle Budget 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 2012/01/15 2012/01/22 2012/01/29 2012/02/05 2012/02/12 2012/02/19 2012/02/26 2012/03/04 2012/03/11 2012/03/18 2012/03/25 2012/04/01 2012/04/08 2012/04/15 2012/04/22 2012/04/29 2012/05/06 2012/05/13 2012/05/20 2012/05/27 2012/06/03 2012/06/10 2012/06/17 2012/06/24 2012/07/01 2012/07/08 2012/07/15 2012/07/22 2012/07/29 2012/08/05 2012/08/12 2012/08/19 2012/08/26 2012/09/02 2012/09/09 2012/09/16 2012/09/23 2012/09/30 2012/10/07 2012/10/14 2012/10/21 2012/10/28 2012/11/04 2012/11/11 2012/11/18 2012/11/25 2012/12/02 2012/12/09 2012/12/16 2012/12/23 Tweets Date Pre-election
  12. 12. WHO IS TWEETING? – Highly active group of users within #auspol hashtag: • Top 1% users contribute 64% of tweets • 6 users responsible for 87,696 tweets 0 200000 400000 600000 800000 1000000 1200000 all 50662 users users > 0% (>= 0 tweets; 45514 of 50662 users) users > 90% (>= 14 tweets; 4639 of 50662 users) users > 99% (>= 297 tweets; 510 of 50662 users) Sum of original tweets Sum of genuine @replies Sum of retweets
  13. 13. WHO IS TWEETING? #AUSPOL – Highly active group of users within #auspol hashtag: • These especially active users not elected parliamentarians or journalists • Instead, politically engaged citizens (or automated accounts) – Fit Coleman’s (2006) description of “political junkies”, who treat political issues as major topics of interest and actively seek out relevant news and opinion pieces? – MPs, journalists, media organisations mentioned often in tweets • However, these accounts (especially politicians) do not contribute many tweets to the #auspol discussion
  14. 14. WHO IS TWEETING? #QLDPOL – Tweeting patterns also show a core group of users contributing the majority of hashtagged tweets • Some overlap with the prominent #auspol users. – The users that are most mentioned are a mixture of these frequent contributors and key state political actors, who do not necessarily participate in these discussions themselves. • Limits to this analysis due to election in first half of 2012; user names, and affiliations, changed (including @TheQldPremier) • Further analysis required to establish on-going patterns beyond the election context.
  15. 15. WHO IS TWEETING? #WAPOL – A lower level of activity, but greater representation amongst most mentioned and also most active accounts by journalists and politicians • A more even spread of – and comparable contributions from – citizens (including the “political junkies”), journalists, and politicians alike. – Changing patterns towards end of year as election campaigns are readied • Party strategies regarding social media have some impact on the developing shape of tweeted political debates
  16. 16. WHO IS TWEETING? – Politicians in particular often mentioned a lot, but rarely contribute to hashtagged debates • @mentions as a shorthand for discussing politicians, creating a link to their account, rather than necessarily expecting conversation – Presence of core group of “political junkies” leading (in volume if not in topic) these discussions • Framing of politics around personalities (individual politicians) rather than parties? • Tweeting patterns still follow major news stories, debates around party leaders (particularly in hung parliament situation, in build-up to election).
  17. 17. LIMITATIONS AND FURTHER OUTLOOK • Caveats: – Not all voters on Twitter - not representative of entire electorate – No requirement to use hashtag/engage with others using it • Active choice by user to connect to wider discussion • Users replying to hashtagged comments might not include it in their tweets • Intentions of hashtags, functions of use • Future directions – Case studies within the different political contexts – Replies and retweets, information flows, across party affiliation, between different user groups (journalists, politicians), regions, themes • Ongoing tracking, comparing non-election and election periods (QLD 2012; WA and AUS 2013).
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