Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Twitter is full of liberals apparently

There is an interesting piece of research out in Prospect magazine this month which shows that Twitter users are likely to be very high up the liberal scale. In fact they claim that only Lib Dems and Londoners as groups are actually more liberal.

This chart sums up where Twitter users are positioned compared to other groups:

They claim that this is why so many "liberal" campaigns have managed to gain traction on Twitter and list the following recent examples:

  • Breaking the Guardian’s court injunction banning them from naming mining company Trafigura.
  • Attacking Daily Mail writer Jan Moir for “homophobic” remarks on the death of gay pop star Stephen Gately.
  • Criticising Sunday Times critic AA Gill for shooting a baboon while on safari.
  • Vilifying Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan and his criticism of the NHS in the US, in the #welovethenhs campaign.

I find it very interesting that they should find Twitter users positioned like this. When I saw the above chart I instantly thought that part of the reason will be that there are quite a lot of Lib Dems, Londoners and 18-34 year olds on Twitter. Indeed towards the end of the Prospect article it says:

Reacting to the poll, Prospect managing editor James Crabtree said: “New technologies are often adopted by the political extremes of left and right. It is clear that the urban, metropolitan, Guardian-reading ‘chattering classes’ have flocked online to become the ‘twittering classes’ —and they are now a real force in British politics.”

The survey confirms Twitter’s image in Britain as a tool for a youthful metropolitan elite. 46 per cent of users are younger than 35, compared to 29 per cent of the population, while Twitter users more likely to live in London.

I'm not sure about this final comment though:

But where Twitter users and the rest of the country most disagree, perhaps unsurprisingly, is over the service itself. Twitter users might think the service is worthwhile, but 76 per cent of the British population give the idea a thumbs-down, saying they have never used it and do not intend to in future—meaning the “twittering classes” could have a Twitter monopoly for some time to come.

I think it is like with any new technology, it takes a while for people to grasp it and its benefits. In the case of Twitter I don't think it is helped by some of the ways I have heard it described. People still think it is just used to tell people what you are doing in any one precise moment, e.g. "taking the turkey out of the oven", "going to the shops" etc. The truth is that although it might have started like that, it is now a means of debate and dissemination of information to lots of people who have chosen to follow you. In my case I follow lots of people who are interested in politics.

In fact we debated this very issue as one of the topics on last week's House of Comments podcast with Jennie Rigg and Matt Wardman which you can listen to via this link.

I think we will find the uptake of Twitter continuing to increase rapidly as more people "get it" over the next year or two. That might mean the position on the above scale is quite different in a couple of years time which some liberals might lament but I think will be better for engagement generally.


Frank said...

The twitter will become better and better...

Dippyness. said...

I'm with you. Although I don't know anyone else who uses Twitter round here!
But the facts are these: The media & Politicians are having to take notice of it.
I think it will grow exponentially prior to the General Election.
Clearly I love it. :-)

Edd said...

I'm impressed that both those in the north and those in the south are more authoritarian than average...

(must be a sizeable chunk of 'middle' I know, but I'd intuitively expect those two to be broadly half of the country each)

asquith said...

Aye- can't wait to see the full article when it emerges & that.

I am interested by exactly what questions they use & whether we can test ourselves- we all know as these tests often come up with different results to each other.

Odd to think of a liberal-minded Labour voter, isn't it? But I know a few like that, who formed their opinions in the 80s when they hated Thatcher, distrust Blair/Brown's authoritarianism, but vote for them for no good reason anyway.

Matt Wardman said...

I think it is interesting (and a bit superficial) that they are focusing on the mob-handed mass campaigns, rather than anything more interesting.

I also question the identification of "liberal" with "left", since most of the left always seems damned intolerant to me, but that's a different debate.

But I look forward to the article.

Anonymous said...

Ed - I think that Londoners balance them out (around 20% of the population?)