Twitter: a useful tool for studying elections?
- Publisher: University of Florida Press
The 2015 General Election in the UK was the first to take place in the UK with Twitter as an important part of the social media landscape. This pilot project looked at 16 constituencies along England’s South Coast in order to investigate what impact, if any, Twitter had had on the campaign and the result and to investigate the efficacy, or otherwise, of using Twitter as a tool for studying election campaigns in terms of candidate and local party activism. On the basis of an analysis of almost half a million tweets the analysis concluded that there appeared to be a correlation between the rate at which parties and/or candidates responded to incoming tweets and their relative electoral performance but this was not demonstrable for all parties (it applied in particular to Labour and UKIP candidates). In addition, high rates of reply also appeared to have a positive impact on constituency turnout figures. The findings are not yet conclusive but suggest that Twitter could be a good indicator of general levels of local party activism. The research also sought to understand how candidates used Twitter differently and established a number of candidate ‘classifiers’. It also investigated the issues agenda that was dominating Twitter conversations during the campaign and found that Twitter’s agenda was closer to the public’s than was that of the national media. The research also monitored the regional and local media in the 16 constituencies and discovered that their issues agenda was closer still to the public’s. Overall it is difficult to conclude that Twitter had a major impact on the election campaign.