UK Politics’ Leading Twitter Influencers

To whom do political leaders turn to opinion in the age of new media disruption? Twitter data just might reveal the answer.

UK Politics’ Leading Twitter Influencers

In the last days leading up to the UK general elections on May 7, 2015, we have identified unique insights that show how political leaders and their most significant Followers are connected. In addition to determining how Fans connect media brands, politicians, and political parties, we also set out to find who were the expert voices in the public sphere for this election.

In order to find our answer, we analysed Twitter data for the major UK political parties and their leaders, starting with the following 9 profiles:

We then looked for a pattern of followed accounts that all the above analysed profiles share. Accounts that all the major political profiles follow would indicate who were the generally agreed upon opinion leaders in the Twittersphere.

Curiously, not a single account was followed by all of the 9 Twitter profiles of UK political parties and their leaders that we tracked. What emerged are two clusters of accounts followed by 8 out of the 9 and 7 out of the 9 profiles, respectively. Some of the followed profiles are accounts of specific journalists, while others belong to entire media outlets.

This is the group of Twitter accounts that we found was followed by 8 out of the 9 above profiles:

The second group of influential Twitter accounts is followed by 7 out of the 9 profiles in our base group. This still qualifies those accounts as universally accepted opinion leaders. Just as with the first group, we do not further distinguish who does not follow which accounts. This group is, unsurprisingly, larger, and includes the following 9 Twitter accounts:

Examining the list of Twitter profiles for both influencer groups, we can arrive at a concise group of 6 personal accounts that all UK political parties and their leaders look to for opinion and commentary.

  • Andrew Neil (@afneil) – A Scottish journalist and longtime conservative stalwart, Neil is a center of Conservative commentary in the middle of what’s becoming a revolutionary time for Scottish politics.
  • Craig Woodhouse (@craigawoodhouse) – The Sun’s political correspondent tweets candidly from this, his personal account. The paper’s readership is clearly loyal – Woodhouse’s personal account is followed by roughly 40% of the number of @SunPolitics Followers.
  • Matt Chorley (@MattChorley) – The Political Editor for The Daily Mail’s MailOnline, Matt Chorley has a wicked sense of humour he deploys on his personal account to its 10,000+ Followers.
  • Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) – Kuenssberg is the Chief Correspondent and a presenter for the BBC’s Newsnight. A native Scot, she has the largest following of anyone on this list – currently at 183,000. Interestingly, she held on to her BBC-branded Twitter account after leaving her initial stint at the company, taking many Followers with her to ITV. She brought that account back, much larger, when she returned to the BBC for Newsnight.
  • David Wooding (@DavidWooding) – Political Editor of The Sun on Sunday, David Wooding considers himself an unabashedly unbiased media source, despite any public perceptions about his paper’s leanings.
  • James Kirkup (@jameskirkup) – Executive Editor at The Telegraph, James Kirkup has been a political reporter around the UK and the world. Unlike some other presenters on this list, his personal account is linked directly to his published articles in the paper.

Methodology

This study was conducted in the coding language R. The data was downloaded between the 28th and 29th of April, 2015, and was controlled by sample check. The Green Party Twitter account was not used due to a disproportionately large number of followed accounts. In this case, due to the number of followed accounts, it is unverifiable whether the Green Party read the Tweets of their followed profiles.

Head of Research and Development

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