Analysis Politics Twitter — Snurb, 26 February 2012
Queensland Election, Week 1: Some Twitter Patterns

So, after a long ‘phoney campaign’ over the past months, the first week of the Queensland state election campaign proper is finally behind us – even if it has been largely overshadowed by the federal Labor leadership ructions. Following up on my first post examining the Twitter profiles of the ALP and LNP party leaders and their deputies, I thought I’d have a closer look at how things have unfolded over the past week.

The Key Accounts

So, let’s have a look at the activities of the principal accounts since 19 Feb. 2012. In addition to the Premier Anna Bligh (@TheQldPremier) and her deputy Andrew Fraser (@AndrewFraserMP), and opposition candidate for Premier Campbell Newman (@Campbell_Newman) and deputy opposition leader Tim Nicholls (TimNichollsMP – remember, the nominal parliamentary opposition leader Jeff Seeney isn’t on Twitter), I’m also including a handful of other accounts here: that of Ashgrove MP Kate Jones (@katejonesmp), whom Newman must defeat in order to enter parliament in the first place; that of former ALP Premier-turned-election commentator Peter Beattie (@SmartState1), and that of the LNP party organisation itself (@LNPQLD – we’ve only just added its opposite number, @QLDLabor, to our tracker, and don’t have sufficient data yet).

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Looking at their activities over the past week, it’s immediately evident that Labor has put a great deal more effort into Twitter campaigning than the opposition: Bligh’s over 180 tweets translate to more than 25 tweets per day, while Newman manages 4-5 tweets per day; their respective deputies, too, are worlds apart. Only the general @LNPQLD account shows any significant activity, with more than 15 tweets per day – it seems that the LNP has centralised its Twitter activities at headquarters, with individual candidates not especially encouraged to tweet about their campaigning work.

This may indicate a ‘small target’ strategy which matches current opinion polls: while the ALP is forced to make itself as visible as possible in its attempts to turn the polls around, strong social media engagement by the LNP only increases the risk that some candidate could tweet something stupid that could hurt the overall campaign. (The same is true for the Jones/Newman contest in Ashgrove, too: Jones is twice as active on Twitter as Newman, even though she’s only campaigning locally, while he is doing so across the entire state.) The wildcard in the mix, meanwhile – former ALP Premier Beattie – is living up to his ‘media tart’ image, taking to Twitter with great enthusiasm.

Clear differences in tweeting styles are also evident: Bligh and Beattie emerge as the great conversationalists (as does Newman, it should be noted, though at a much reduced level): 68%, 92%, and 77% of their tweets are genuine @replies (not counting retweets), respectively – in the case of Bligh, we’re seeing a clear strategy of voter engagement here, I think. Jones, by contrast, is considerably more active at posting original tweets (that is, neither @replies nor retweets) – focussing on information more than conversation, in other words; notably, more than half of her tweets also contain URLs pointing to further resources (this is followed by 40% URLs for @LNPQLD and 33% for Premier Bligh).

The Bigger Picture

But what about the campaign beyond these key accounts? Since the Premier made her announcement in late January that the official campaign would start on 19 February, we’ve been tracking the Twitter accounts of as many Queensland politicians as we’ve been able to find (using the Courier-Mail’s helpful list of politicians’ Twitter accounts) – that is, we’ve captured all tweets either from or mentioning those accounts by username. Here’s how things have developed since then:

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Clearly, there’s a marked jump in activity at the start of the official campaign on 19 Feb. (when the Premier formally asked the Queensland Governor to resolve parliament and call an election). Part of this is also due to us adding some further, recently found Twitter accounts to track – but considering that most of those new accounts haven’t proved especially active over the past week, most of it shows a genuine boost in activity between politicians and their followers.

An overview of the most active (by number of tweets sent) and most visible users (by number of @mentions received – counting @replies and manual retweets) since 19 Feb. is also instructive. Please note again in this context that (contrary to much of the other work we’ve presented on this site so far) this time we’re not looking at activity within a specific hashtag, but rather at a dataset containing all tweets from or to some 80 politicians’ accounts – so, we’re not limited only to tweets which happen to include a relevant hashtag (which means that the dataset contains more tweets than we would normally see), but at the same time we won’t capture Queensland election tweets that don’t @mention at least one of the accounts we’re tracking (which also means that the dataset contains fewer tweets than we would normally see). Eventually, I think I’ll write a separate post about these methodological differences.

At any rate, in the table below I’ve highlighted active candidates and party accounts (indicating their party affiliations: red for Labor, blue for the LNP, maroon for Katter’s Australia Party, and green for the Greens); it’s quite notable that members of the minor parties (the Greens and KAP), in particular, are comparatively active, even if that activity does not necessarily translate in a substantial number of @replies and retweets.

By contrast, the list of the most visible accounts is necessarily led by the two major candidates, as well as some of the other key accounts we’ve already encountered – of the seven accounts whose activities we’ve examined above, only Nicholls is absent, no doubt due to his very limited activity levels. Another LNP candidate, @gavking, is also highly visible here, if for all the wrong reasons: his widely reported remarks about rape have led to a substantial number of tweets criticising him. (Notably, former ALP Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also makes it into the top twenty most @mentioned accounts, following his challenge for the federal ALP leadership. Since neither he nor former Premier Peter Beattie are active candidates in the Queensland election, I haven’t highlighted them in the table below, though.)

User tweets sent User @mentions received
Qlder 222 TheQldPremier 2902
TheQldPremier 184 Campbell_Newman 1717
ryan4glasshouse 161 LNPQLD 722
SmartState1 157 katejonesmp 683
RonWadforth 138 AndrewFraserMP 576
couriermail 133 SmartState1 372
PJAllmanPayne 124 gavking 316
Can_do_Campbell 120 tennewsqld 292
DavidGibsonMP 120 Tencb 233
Dangerman_2 110 aidanmclindon 177
SarahLVogler 107 Qlder 174
LNPQLD 107 ryan4glasshouse 157
OllieNewmanDog 105 sueGCB 156
Tencb 97 couriermail 150
old_dog_rusty 89 Can_do_Campbell 142
justinbarbour 86 patrickcondren7 141
dtfishman 81 DavidGibsonMP 129
SteveSmithKAP 81 old_dog_rusty 126
rosannebarrett 72 KRuddMP 123
leoniemellor10 72 WeeLassie58 121

Finally, here’s a look at interactions between these accounts to date (covering the period of 24 Jan. to 25 Feb.; zoom in or see the full map here). Candidate’s accounts are coloured with the same scheme as above, plus black for independents and yellow for the North Queensland Party. I’ve also included Peter Beattie here (in pink). There are some obvious party clusters here: at the top, the KAP candidates are mostly connecting amongst themselves, and in the top right, the same is true for a group of Greens.
At the centre, by contrast, we see clearer evidence of the contest between Labor and LNP: while it seems that each side still predominantly engage amongst themselves, there are also a number of notable cross-party connections here: in particular, between LNP leader Newman and Deputy Premier Fraser, between Newman and his local opponent Jones, and between Newman and Surfers Paradise ALP candidate Matthew Donovan (@matt4surfersalp). A certain work-sharing between Premier Bligh and her deputy (and other ALP candidates) again seems to be evident: while she connects mainly to her own colleagues (and her predecessor Peter Beattie, but only because he mentions her), it is other ALP accounts which take the fight directly to the opposition.

Just to document this in a little more detail still, here’s that central section of the map, showing the prevailing directions of @mentioning. An arrow from A to B means ‘A @replies to/retweets B’ – for example, @SmartState1 frequently @mentions @TheQldPremier, but that favour is not necessarily returned.

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So much, then, for the first week of the campaign. We’ll check in again at various points before election day (on 24 March) to see how things are unfolding…

About the Author

Dr Axel Bruns leads the QUT Social Media Research Group. He is an ARC Future Fellow and Professor in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Bruns is the author of Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage (2008) and Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production (2005), and a co-editor of Twitter and Society, A Companion to New Media Dynamics and Uses of Blogs (2006). He is a Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation. His research Website is at snurb.info, and he tweets as @snurb_dot_info.

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