Social media has changed the way that elected representatives communicate with their voters and each other. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can now be as important as press releases, local meetings and newsletters.
One of the side effects of this development is that there is more opportunity for us to investigate exactly what our politicians are saying. Whilst social media does offer politicians and political parties the opportunity to target advertising at different groups any public message that they put out on their main twitter feed is available to everybody.
This piece of work looks at Assembly Members tweets, how often they mention each other in their tweets, AMs attitudes to tweeting, who else gets mentioned by AMs and which tweet was most popular.
In November 2018 I kept a log of every tweet by each AM in the Welsh Assembly using the twitteR package. After collecting all the tweets I used this data to see how often different politicians were referring to each other (i.e. how often other’s handles were in their tweets). With this data it was possible to use the visNetwork package to create a data visualisation of how often each AM tweeted and how often they communicated with each other (this analysis excludes retweets).
The size of the circle is dependent on how many tweets the member has made and the width of the line between circles depends on how many mentions were made. You can zoom in to see the names of AMs and can click on one of the circles to see who was in their personal network. Additionally you can drag the visualisation around.
There are a number of interesting patterns inside this data. It is clear that Labour members tend to tweet at each other instead of with the other parties. Members of the other parties tend to tweet within their parties, but this pattern is not so clear. And no one wants to talk to Neil Hamilton (at least on twitter!).
The context of this data is important. Firstly the fact that it was captured during the Labour leadership campaign is quite clear and explains why the three candidates, Mark Drakeford, Eluned Morgan and Vaughan Gething are referred to so often by other Labour AMs. Alun Davies especially seemed to mention Eluned Morgan a lot. In addition to political events it is also possible to see how members used twitter socially between each other, for example, nearly all of the messages to Nick Ramsay were congratulating him on the birth of his child.
Personally I also find it interesting to look at how different individual members use twitter. I think that I’ve been able to identify at least three different methods of using Twitter amongst AMs.
There are some members who refer to other members a lot and, in turn, are referred to a lot by other AMs. People like Lee Waters, Bethan Sayed and Dawn Bowden. They seem to use twitter in order to have public debates and discussion and all use twitter a lot.
There are some members who hardly ever refer to other members, this group includes Carwyn Jones, Huw Irranca Davies and Ken Skates. Other people refer to them, especially Carwyn Jones’ (at the time) @fmwales handle, but they do not use twitter for conversations with other members.
I also believe that there is a group who refer to other members but rarely if ever have other members refer back to them. This group includes Gareth Bennett and Neil McEvoy. It is possible that these members are refering to others in order to make a political point as opposed to starting a political conversation.
In addition to looking at how often elected members refer to each other we can also look at who else is part of the assembly “twitosffer”. This table shows which handles received the most mentions from AMs.
Keeping in mind the leadership election it is not a suprise that @mark4leader was very popular. There are also a lot of references to political parties, political institutions, campaigners, other politicians, journalists and charity accounts.
It is also possible to look at the number of retweets and likes different members received. Looking back at the month the most popular tweet was this one. It was retweeted 1,171 times and liked 3,051 times.
This tells us all we need to know about UKIP. I call on all Assembly Members to join me in refusing to give them mainstream party status in our Senedd. #NoDealingWithUKIP #CordonSanitaire#FreezeThemOut #No2TheFarRight #OpposeFascism https://t.co/59EOhYofDh— LeanneWood 🏴 (@LeanneWood) November 23, 2018