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#wavotes: Tracking candidates' use of social media in the 2013 Western Australian state election



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#wavotes: Tracking candidates' use of social media in the 2013 Western Australian state election

  1. 1. #wavotes: Tracking candidates’ use of social media in the 2013 Western Australian state election Tim Highfield and Axel Bruns ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, Australia t.highfield | a.bruns @ @timhighfield | @snurb_dot_info
  2. 2. TWITTER AND ELECTION CAMPAIGNS • Social media now established components of political campaigning, commentary, reporting • Part of Australian political landscape for several years: – 2010: ALP leadership spill covered via Twitter; Federal election accompanied by #ausvotes tweets – Subsequent state elections followed this approach (2012 Queensland state election and #qldvotes) – MPs, candidates, parties, journalists, voters tweet news, opinions, links (as part of wider online activity and campaign strategy)
  3. 3. PREVIOUS (AND FUTURE) STUDIES • Bruns & Burgess (2011) - #ausvotes (2010) • Bruns & Highfield (2013) - #qldvotes (2012) • Bruns, Highfield, & Sauter (upcoming) - #ausvotes II (2013) • These later studies (and this paper) also act as pilot studies and first cases for international collaborative research into social media and election campaigns
  4. 4. STATE AND FEDERAL POLITICS AND TWITTER • Australian (federal) politics a prominent topic of discussion on Twitter – In 2012, #auspol regularly attracted thousands of tweets per day; live tweeting of panel shows such as Q & A • State politics has a smaller audience on Twitter, though – #wapol averaged 61 tweets per day in 2012 – a year’s worth of #wapol tweets is equivalent to less than four days of #auspol – State politicians and journalists somewhat active on Twitter – Expected heightened activity for election campaigns
  5. 5. TWITTER AND WESTERN AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Mr M. McGOWAN: […] It is a bit like Twitter; the Premier has forbidden all his ministers from using Twitter, yet I see a Twitter account with the Premier’s name on it. […] Mr C.J. Barnett: It is another untruth. Mr P. Papalia: You know you told ministers not to use Twitter; that is true. Mr C.J. Barnett: People can use Twitter. That is not true. People have not been banned. Mr M. McGOWAN: I do not think the Premier knows what Twitter is. Legislative Assembly Hansard, 20 September 2012, pp. 6344-5
  6. 6. RESEARCH QUESTIONS • How was Twitter utilised during the election campaign? – Which parties and candidates used Twitter (extensively) during the campaign? – How active were these candidates’ Twitter accounts? – To what extent did these accounts interact, along both intra- and lines? • How do these approaches support – or differ from – findings in similar studies of election campaigns and social media?
  7. 7. METHODS • Tracking tweets containing specified hashtags, keywords, and user names (including tweets from these users) • Data collected between January and March 2013 – #wapol, #wavotes, #wa2013vote – barnett; mcgowan; buswell; metronet – @MarkMcGowanMP [initial list of 83 MP, party, candidate accounts, expanded to 119 accounts by election day] • Methods – yourTwapperkeeper captures tweets with specified hashtags from Twitter API – Gawk scripts for processing large datasets (Bruns & Burgess, 2011), Gephi for network visualisation
  8. 8. THE 2013 WESTERN AUSTRALIAN ELECTION • First state election with a fixed date: 9 March 2013 • Parliament adjourned December 2012, but writs not issued for election until February 2013 – A ‘phoney’ campaign in December and January, and for declared candidates even before then • Main players: – Liberal Party (in government) – led by Premier Colin Barnett [15 accounts tracked here] – Australian Labor Party (ALP) – led by Mark McGowan [47] – National Party (in coalition with Liberal Party [17] – Australian Greens [24] – Independents and minor parties [16]
  9. 9. THE CAMPAIGN ON TWITTER • ALP and Greens candidates generated the greatest numbers of tweets during the election campaign – Established ALP MP Twitter accounts maintained regular rates of tweeting, supported by new candidate accounts • New candidates – with accounts set up for the election campaign – saw election period tweets forming the highest percentage of their total tweets – Independents, Greens, ALP candidates – Some (pre-existing) Liberal Party accounts suddenly increased tweeting rate once election called
  10. 10. CANDIDATES’ TWEETING Account Party Status # Tweets (Feb-Mar 2013) % of total tweets (to March 2013) KenTraversMLC ALP MP 740 11.84 CameronPoustie Greens Candidate 483 13.56 TheGreensWA Greens Party 456 53.52 DrGCrisp Greens Candidate 399 17.72 GregWRoss Independent Candidate 397 53.36 papsMLA ALP MP 284 14.77 JohnHydeMLA ALP MP 272 7.05 JandakotJoe Liberal MP 179 41.82 LiberalsWA Liberal Party 159 36.89 darlingrange ALP Candidate 131 37.54 walabor ALP Party 127 35.67 lisabakercom ALP MP 123 13.16 KlaraAndric ALP Candidate 113 50.90 JSheltonALP ALP Candidate 109 39.78 Sullivan4Freo Greens Candidate 108 38.03 ian_radisich ALP Candidate 93 17.65 QuirkyMLA ALP MP 72 16.22 lynnmaclaren Greens MP 63 14.13 MiaDaviesMLC Nationals MP 62 4.16 RogerCookMLA ALP MP 60 4.89
  11. 11. CANDIDATES’ TWEETING Account Party Status # Tweets (Feb-Mar 2013) % of total tweets (to March 2013) KMCottesloe Independent Candidate 33 64.71 TheGreensWA Greens Party 456 53.52 GregWRoss Independent Candidate 397 53.36 KlaraAndric ALP Candidate 113 50.90 GreensWanneroo Greens Candidate 31 42.47 JandakotJoe Liberal MP 179 41.82 JSheltonALP ALP Candidate 109 39.78 Sullivan4Freo Greens Candidate 108 38.03 darlingrange ALP Candidate 131 37.54 LiberalsWA Liberal Party 159 36.89 walabor ALP Party 127 35.67 JillSounnessRfR Nationals Candidate 28 35.00 MichelleMidland ALP MP 50 30.30 maxhipkins Independent Candidate 35 29.91 LizBehjatMLC Liberal MP 23 27.06 nollamaramp ALP MP 19 24.05 FredRiebeling ALP Candidate 45 23.81 TonyOGorman3 ALP MP 10 20.00
  12. 12. CAMPAIGN TWEETING • Initial 83 accounts tweeted 10,118 times between 9 January and 10 March 2013 • Tweeting about election in general increased as election day approached, peaking on election day (spike for leaders’ debate – not shown here) 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 #wavotes #wapol #wa2013vote
  13. 13. CANDIDATES’ INTERACTIONS • Size: degree • Colour: affiliation – Red: ALP – Blue: Liberal – Green: Greens – Orange: Nationals – Pink: Independents (11 Feb – 10 March)
  14. 14. PRESENCE AND ABSENCE • Greens, Nationals on Twitter form partisan clusters in their interactions – strategy of linking to focal party accounts, who interact more (or are mentioned by others) across party lines? • ALP follows similar approach, but sheer volume of accounts in comparison means this appears as the main component rather than a separate cluster, of the @mention network • The absence of many Liberal MPs and candidates on Twitter means that the few Liberals who were active are less of a cluster, more of a bridge between different groups
  15. 15. PRESENCE AND ABSENCE • Twitter users still sought out the ‘absent’ accounts, though – Unofficial Barnett accounts continued to attract followers at higher rates than other candidates during election period, despite being branded as unofficial and/or not tweeting at all during campaign: Account New followers (Jan-Mar 2013) LiberalsWA 647 MarkMcGowanMP 541 walabor 403 TheGreensWA 395 premierbarnett 365
  16. 16. TWITTER AND THE WA ELECTION • WA case study demonstrates patterns similar to those found in 2012 Queensland election, such as partisan clustering – Conspicuous absence of Liberal accounts from Twitter, though, means that interactions take different shape – Electorate-specific ‘battles’ through @mentions less apparent, again as candidates not on Twitter – Strategy (or result) of a few prominent accounts @mentioned by other party members and bridging partisan lines – tweeting strategies of leaders? Reflective of election issues?
  17. 17. TWITTER AND THE WA ELECTION • Election results reflect (or exceed) the predicted outcome – overwhelming victory for Liberal Party, several seemingly-safe ALP seats lost, no independents in Legislative Assembly • Absence of Liberal Party candidates from Twitter as campaign strategy minimised gaffes and spreadable errors, especially when predicted results meant engagement online not necessarily important for obtaining support • Election night: Liberal Party account most active, tweeting results and congratulating candidates (other accounts silent)
  18. 18. LIMITATIONS AND FURTHER OUTLOOK • Twitter users are not representative of the electorate at large; datasets here do not contain all tweets concerning election or related issues; Twitter is just one platform used during the campaign • Preliminary analysis of tweeting patterns featured here – Further examination required, such as the content of tweets (including rationale for @mentions, hashtag use) – Additional analysis to draw on further datasets (keywords, hashtags), from a wider group of users, to provide more rounded view of election from Twitter • Application of methods, comparison of (extended) findings with upcoming elections
  19. 19. @snurb_dot_info @jeanburgess @_StephenH @DrTNitins @timhighfield @cdtavijit @lena_sauter @dpwoodford @tsadkowsky @socialmediaQUT