Analysis Politics Twitter — Snurb, 11 March 2012
Queensland Election, Week 2: Some More Twitter Patterns

OK, so much for my plan to post a weekly update on the way the Queensland election is playing our on Twitter: I spent most of week 2 at a research workshop in Sydney, and didn’t get around to posting an update that weekend. So, this weekend, you get two for the price of one: this post, catching up on arisings in the week from 27 Feb. to 4 Mar., and a follow-up which will bring us up to date again.

First off, a reminder: what I’ve done in week 1, and will continue to do here, is to look not at the #qldvotes or #qldpol hashtags (those are interesting too, but we’ll leave them for another time), but at tweets from and two all the candidate accounts we’ve been able to identify so far (with some help from the Courier-Mail, which maintains a useful Twitter list of almost all accounts). So, what’s included in our dataset are all tweets which were either sent by those accounts, or @mention them (in the form of @replies or manual retweets). In addition to the politicians themselves, we’re also including a few party accounts, as well as the account of former Premier Peter Beattie.

Let’s start again with a look at the principals: the major parties’ generic accounts, the major combatants (whom I profiled here), and Peter Beattie. Compared to week 1, the @QLDLabor party account is the newcomer in this mix: we’ve only been tracking it since 26 Feb., but this also means we do have a full weeks’ worth of data for week 2. Sadly, though, there’s nothing much to be said about it here – with 34 tweets in seven days, it has remained relatively quiet. By comparison, @TheQldPremier Anna Bligh continues to lead the pack, maintaining her work rate at levels comparable to last week (160 tweets in week 2, just over 180 in week 1). Her deputy @AndrewFraserMP has substantially increased his tweeting, on the other hand: he’s been tweeting roughly twice as much as he did during week 1. By contrast, crucial Labor MP for Ashgrove @katejonesmp, who is in a direct electoral contest against would-be LNP Premier Campbell Newman, has dropped back slightly: posting just over 60 tweets in week 1, she’s only managed 41 in week 2.

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The same goes for Peter Beattie (@SmartState1): he’s posted some 60 fewer tweets than in week 1. This is perhaps unsurprising: now working as an election commentator, the start of the election campaign proper would have afforded him a much greater opportunity for comments than the (in Queensland, at least) relatively uneventful second week of the campaign.

On the other side of politics, party account @LNPQLD has more or less maintained a high level of activity: from just under 110 tweets in week 1, its work rate has increased to touch on the 120 mark in week 2. It remains evident that the Twitter campaign here is centred on the party headquarters: where ALP candidates well out-tweet its party account, the situation is reversed for the LNP. With 34 tweets in week 2, candidate for Premier @Campbell_Newman matched his week 1 rate almost exactly, while nominal parliamentary opposition leader Jeff Seeney remains absent from Twitter, and his deputy @TimNichollsMP might as well be: he tweeted just once during week 2.

What is also interesting in examining these week 2 numbers is how much the tweeting styles of these accounts have remained the same from one week to the other (see the corresponding graph from week 1 for comparison). Bligh and her predecessor Beattie remain highly conversational, posting a substantial number of @replies and no retweets (with Bligh posting a significantly larger number of original tweets – i.e. neither @reply nor retweet – and tweets containing URLs); Newman’s tweets follow a similar pattern, if on a much smaller scale. Fraser and the LNP party account both post an almost even mix of original tweets, retweets, and @replies (for both, the retweet component has grown in week 2), but @LNPQLD’s tweets contain more URLs. Jones’s activities are the only where some change is notable: she has taken to posting more retweets in week 2.

Overall activity levels in interactions with these accounts have remained more or less stable during week 2, compared to the levels established by the end of week 1 (on average, there were some 1200 tweets from or to the accounts we’re tracking here). I’ll skip the relevant graph in this post, and will include one which shows patterns since late January in my week 3 post.

Things become more interesting again when we look at the most active and most visible accounts during week 2. Here are the relevant tables, again colour-coded by party:

User tweets sent   User @mentions received
Qlder 258   Campbell_Newman 2072
PJAllmanPayne 165   TheQldPremier 2048
TheQldPremier 160   AndrewFraserMP 811
ryan4glasshouse 120   LNPQLD 457
BrentALP 119   katejonesmp 379
GREENS4GlssHse 119   SmartState1 296
LNPQLD 118   Qlder 281
AndrewFraserMP 104   gavking 242
SmartState1 97   tennewsqld 164
Matt4SurfersALP 96   couriermail 133
old_dog_rusty 84   DavidGibsonMP 130
Dangerman_2 70   Tencb 122
DavidGibsonMP 65   LNPInsider 108
vonschnapps 65   aidanmclindon 98
rosannebarrett 62   ryan4glasshouse 97
gvandersee 61   YLNPPresident 97
JLacey_86 60   MarkRobinsonMP 96
Tencb 60   QLDLabor 92
MarkRobinsonMP 58   brisbanetimes 84
DaKwozzie 57   justinbarbour 83

 
Compared again to last week’s tables, a few patterns are obvious. Some Greens accounts continue to campaign strongly via Twitter; a third second account, the unfortunately-named @GREENS4GlssHse, has joined the lead group (I initially mistook the ALP’s @ryan4glasshouse for a Greens account, too – fixed now). Similarly, three more ALP Twitter accounts have entered the top 20 list in week 2, in addition to @TheQldPremier herself. Overall, and notwithstanding the strong performance of the central @LNPQLD account, this continues to give the impression that candidates from left-of-centre parties in Australia have taken to Twitter with significantly more enthusiasm than conservatives (and interestingly, the three Katter’s Australia Party accounts which were in the top 20 in week 1 have now disappeared from the list). Of the non-official accounts, @Qlder continues to tweet most actively at the accounts we’re tracking here.

But activity does not equal visibility or success: when we examine the @mentions of major political accounts, the picture is considerably more balanced. In terms of @mentions, in week 2 challenger @Campbell_Newman has (just) taken the lead from @TheQldPremier, and these two accounts each receive easily more than twice as many @mentions than any other users listed here. Amongst those other accounts, there are few surprises: Fraser, Jones, Beattie, and the @LNPQLD account all maintain their positions in the lead of the also-rans; @gavking, the LNP candidate under pressure for some highly controversial remarks about rape, also continues to receive a substantial number of @mentions.

The minor parties (in particular, the Greens and KAP) remain comparatively absent from the list, on the other hand; the focus of the discussion, at least to the extent that it is expressed through tweets which directly mention politicians’ accounts (which is what our dataset represents, you’ll remember), clearly is on the major parties – and of these, mainly on their two candidates for the Premiership. Outside of this, there’s a smattering of news-related accounts (in addition to Beattie’s @SmartState1, accounts for Network Ten, the Courier-Mail, and the Brisbane Times), as well as the anonymous account of LNP critic @LNPInsider and the account of Young LNP president Ben Riley (@YLNPPresident; not coloured in the table above since he’s not a candidate in the election, as far as I know).

Finally (for week 2), another quick graph of the network of @mentions between the major accounts (click to enlarge). Here, I’m again showing the political accounts (plus Peter Beattie) only, and compared to last week, I’ve coloured the arrows between them by the party affiliation of the sender (so, a red arrow shows @mentions by an ALP account, a blue arrow shows @mentions by an LNP account, etc.). Node size indicates the number of @mentions received – but only from the accounts shown here (so @TheQldPremier is larger than @Campbell_Newman in this graph, since – due to the greater number of active ALP accounts on Twitter – she receives more mentions from political accounts than he does).

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There’s now a fair amount of separation visible between the two camps. Labor accounts mainly tweet at each other (and most of all, @mention the Premier); LNP accounts, to the extent that they’re particularly active at all, do the same. The major exceptions are @AndrewFraserMP and @Matt4SurfersALP on the ALP side, and @ScottDriscollAu for the LNP; beyond that, there are also a handful of one-on-one battles (for example between @karenstruthers, ALP, and @DavidGibsonMP, LNP, and between @DavidGibsonMP and @ryan4glasshouse) or unrequited attacks (the LNP’s @jplangbroek’s tweets to the @QLDLabor account, for example, seem to have remained unanswered).

So much for week 2, then. A post on developments in week 3 will be coming up later today.

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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