Assessing the Impact of Twitter on the Outcome of the 2017 UK General Election

Posted: 29 Oct 2018

See all articles by Rachel K. Gibson

Rachel K. Gibson

affiliation not provided to SSRN; University of Manchester

Rosalynd Southern

University of Manchester

Cristian Vaccari

University of Bologna - Faculty of Political Science; Royal Holloway University of London

Jahandar Musayev

University of Manchester

Peter Smyth

University of manchester

Date Written: August 24, 2018

Abstract

Prior work on digital campaigning has found a significant and positive relationship between candidate website use and their vote share. How and why these effects occur and whether they continue through to the social media era, however, remain unanswered questions. This paper seeks to address this gap in the literature by examining the impact of candidates’ Twitter use in the 2017 UK General election on their level of electoral support. In particular, we look at the relationship between the pattern and content of candidates’ campaign tweets and their vote share, controlling for a range of rival factors. We design measures that capture key aspects of candidate tweet behaviour that we expect to increase their overall online popularity and thus potential offline support. These are the overall frequency and intensity of candidates’ Twitter use along with more nuanced indicators of the extent of interactivity and the issue emphasis of their tweets. Our expectation is that candidates who made frequent use of the medium and in a way that connected with voters’ concerns would be more popular with voters than those who did not. We test the expectation using a unique database of candidate tweets which we combine data from the Electoral Commission and the 2017 British Election Study (BSS). The paper is significant in that it updates and increases our understanding of the role of digital campaigning in elections and particularly whether it matters to the outcome. We also make an important methodological contribution to the field by developing and testing a new multi-dimensional measure of candidate Twitter use.

Keywords: Campaigns, General election, UK, Twitter, Candidates

Suggested Citation

Gibson, Rachel K. and Gibson, Rachel K. and Southern, Rosalynd and Vaccari, Cristian and Musayev, Jahandar and Smyth, Peter, Assessing the Impact of Twitter on the Outcome of the 2017 UK General Election (August 24, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3261169

Rachel K. Gibson (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

University of Manchester ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester, N/A M13 9PL
United Kingdom

Rosalynd Southern

University of Manchester ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester, N/A M13 9PL
United Kingdom

Cristian Vaccari

University of Bologna - Faculty of Political Science ( email )

Via Giacomo della Torre 5
Forli 47100, 40100
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://www.cristianvaccari.it

Royal Holloway University of London ( email )

Department of Politics and International Relations
Royal Holloway, University of London
Egham, Surrey TE20 0EX
United Kingdom

Jahandar Musayev

University of Manchester ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester, N/A M13 9PL
United Kingdom

Peter Smyth

University of manchester ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester, N/A M13 9PL
United Kingdom

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