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Social Media in Australian Federal Elections:
Comparing the 2013 and 2016 Campaigns
Prof. Axel Bruns
Dr. Brenda Moon
Digit...
Book Launch
Friday, 14.30, at the Routledge book stall:
Prof. Brian McNair launches
The Routledge Companion to Social Medi...
Australian Politics: A Crash Course
• Key features:
– Westminster(ish) system: first past the post in 150 federal electora...
Australian Politics: A Car Crash
• Considerable political instability since 2007:
– 1996-2007: PM John Howard (Liberal Par...
Social Media in Australian Elections
• Strong social media take-up in Australia:
– ~13m Facebook accounts; ~4m Twitter acc...
Our Approach
• Beyond hashtags:
– Identification of all candidates’ Twitter accounts before 2013 and 2016 elections
– Trac...
2013: Candidate Activity
2016: Candidate Activity
2013: Engagement with Candidates
2016: Engagement with Candidates
Observations
• Key patterns:
– Candidates in 2013:
• Labor campaign reliant on rank-and-file candidates; frontbench largel...
Thematic Patterns
• Theme construction:
– Themes drawn from 2013 ABC VoteCompass + iSentia media themes of 2013
– Iterativ...
Themes Comparison: 2013 / 2016
2013: Themes per Day
2016: Themes per Day
(*): new in 2016
Conclusion and Outlook
• Longitudinal perspective:
– Evolution in campaigning strategies:
• Labor rediscovery of local can...
http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
@snurb_dot_info
@brendam
@socialmediaQUT – http://socialmedia.qut.edu.au/
@qutdmrc – http...
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Social Media in Australian Federal Elections: Comparing the 2013 and 2016 Campaigns

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Paper by Axel Bruns and Brenda Moon, presented at ECREA 2016 in Prague, 9-12 Nov. 2016.

Published in: News & Politics
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Social Media in Australian Federal Elections: Comparing the 2013 and 2016 Campaigns

  1. 1. Social Media in Australian Federal Elections: Comparing the 2013 and 2016 Campaigns Prof. Axel Bruns Dr. Brenda Moon Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia a.bruns / brenda.moon @ qut.edu.au @snurb_dot_info / @brendam
  2. 2. Book Launch Friday, 14.30, at the Routledge book stall: Prof. Brian McNair launches The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics. Eds. Axel Bruns, Gunn Enli, Eli Skogerbø, Anders Olof Larsson and Christian Christensen. Basingstoke: Routledge, 2016. Six continents. 37 chapters. 66 contributors. ~550 pages. #socmedpol Come join us!
  3. 3. Australian Politics: A Crash Course • Key features: – Westminster(ish) system: first past the post in 150 federal electorates = 150 MPs – But with voting preferences distribution from minor to major parties – Plus Senate: 12 senators per state, 2 per territory – (12 x 6) + (2 x 2) = 76 senators – Compulsory voting: 90%+ turnout, 3-5% informal (spoilt) votes – ~3-year parliamentary terms, can be shortened to ~2.5 years on PM’s advice • Parties: – Australian Labor Party (centre left) – Coalition = Liberal Party (conservative) + National Party (agrarian protectionists) – Australian Greens (left, selected issues) – Palmer United Party, Katter’s Australian Party, Nick Xenophon Team, One Nation, … (anti- establishment parties formed around charismatic leaders)
  4. 4. Australian Politics: A Car Crash • Considerable political instability since 2007: – 1996-2007: PM John Howard (Liberal Party) – 2007: PM Kevin Rudd (Labor Party), elected in landslide – 2010: PM Julia Gillard (Labor Party) replaces Rudd in Labor coup – 2010: PM Julia Gillard (Labor Party) wins election, forms minority government – 2013: PM Kevin Rudd (Labor Party) replaces Gillard in Labor coup – 2013: PM Tony Abbott (Liberal Party), elected in landslide – 2015: PM Malcolm Turnbull (Liberal Party) replaces Abbott in Coalition coup – 2016: PM Malcolm Turnbull (Liberal Party) wins election with one-seat majority – (2016: Abbott building up for new coup attempt on PM Turnbull?)  Five (six, with Rudd mk. II) Australian Prime Ministers in ten years
  5. 5. Social Media in Australian Elections • Strong social media take-up in Australia: – ~13m Facebook accounts; ~4m Twitter accounts, ~1m tweets/day (24m population) – Political uses well-established: ~10k #auspol tweets/day; #ausvotes; #qanda; etc. – Considerably larger volume of everyday political talk outside hashtags likely – Most politicians have social media accounts – varying sophistication • Australian political social media research: – Studies of key hashtags and events (#spill / #libspill / #returnbull / …) – Interviews with key political operatives – Internal party research and post-election reviews – Analyses of social media citations and sourcing practices in mainstream media
  6. 6. Our Approach • Beyond hashtags: – Identification of all candidates’ Twitter accounts before 2013 and 2016 elections – Tracking of activities: tweets by candidates + tweets at candidates (@replies and retweets) – Twitter Capture and Analysis Toolkit (TCAT) + Google BigQuery + Tableau – Comparative analysis of activity around candidates and parties during both elections • Timeframes: – Last two calendar weeks before election day: Mon-Sun + Mon-Fri (election on Saturday) – 26 Aug. to 6 Sep. 2013 + 20 June to 1 July 2016 • Analysis: – Focus here on interpretation of quantitative patterns in electoral context – Qualitative study of tweet texts and sentiments to come later – Longer-term analysis of 2013 election patterns already published: Axel Bruns. “Tweeting to Save the Furniture: The 2013 Australian Election Campaign on Twitter.” Media International Australia (2016). DOI: 10.1177/1329878X16669001.
  7. 7. 2013: Candidate Activity
  8. 8. 2016: Candidate Activity
  9. 9. 2013: Engagement with Candidates
  10. 10. 2016: Engagement with Candidates
  11. 11. Observations • Key patterns: – Candidates in 2013: • Labor campaign reliant on rank-and-file candidates; frontbench largely absent – Aligned with strong doorknocking campaign: ‘local target’ strategy • Coalition campaign driven by frontbenchers; other candidates quiet – Strong central control, fear of missteps: ‘small target’ / ‘known target’ strategy – Candidates 2016: • Labor campaign more united; frontbenchers much more present – Doorknocking retained, but also better central control: ‘local target’ + ‘known target’ strategies • Coalition campaign more disorganised; limited control – Indications of continuing internal disagreements over party direction: ‘small target’ vs. ‘friendly target’? – Engagement in 2013 and 2016: • Much more engagement activity by ordinary users in 2016 • Almost no retweeting in 2013; strong retweeting especially of Labor in 2016 • Governing party always receives the greatest number of @mentions • Audience focus strongly on PM candidates and leading frontbenchers • Also some addressing of party dissidents: ex-PMs Gillard (2013) and Abbott (2016), internal critics Wayne Swan (Labor, 2013) and Cory Bernardi (Coalition, 2016)
  12. 12. Thematic Patterns • Theme construction: – Themes drawn from 2013 ABC VoteCompass + iSentia media themes of 2013 – Iterative construction of distinct keyword baskets for each theme – Three additional themes introduced for 2016 election • Theme analysis: – Classification of tweets based on keyword baskets – Ordered by specificity: e.g. ‘carbon tax’  Environment; ‘tax’  Budget – Iterative testing and refinement – Tracking across timeframes and comparison across elections • Success rates: – 2013: 25% of tweets matched to themes / 2016: 34% of tweets matched to themes
  13. 13. Themes Comparison: 2013 / 2016
  14. 14. 2013: Themes per Day
  15. 15. 2016: Themes per Day (*): new in 2016
  16. 16. Conclusion and Outlook • Longitudinal perspective: – Evolution in campaigning strategies: • Labor rediscovery of local candidates and doorknocking + social media approach – Counteracted by internal party turmoil: • Campaign plans disrupted by lack of enthusiasm and discipline following leadership coups – Ordinary users’ activities largely stable: • Focus strongly on governing party, and party leaders – Except for retweeting choices: • Significant changes between 2013 and 2016 – especially Labor retweeting • Further plans: – More detailed content and thematic analysis (quantitative and qualitative) – Network analysis of @mention / retweet interactions: evidence of polarisation?
  17. 17. http://mappingonlinepublics.net/ @snurb_dot_info @brendam @socialmediaQUT – http://socialmedia.qut.edu.au/ @qutdmrc – https://www.qut.edu.au/research/dmrc This research is funded by the Australian Research Council through Future Fellowship and LIEF grants FT130100703 and LE140100148.

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